Prevalence and correlates of obesity in adolescents: A national sample from private and public schools in the United Arab Emirates
Dr. Wegdan Bani Issa & Dr. Hadia Radwan
College of Health Sciences, University of Sharjah
BACKGROUND: Obesity in adolescents is a pressing global health problem. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), obesity rates in adolescents are reaching an alarming stage with little information available on difference in obesity trends between adolescents attending public and private schools. This study addressed the epidemiology of obesity, the difference between adolescents attending private and public schools with regards to sociodemographics, lifestyle, body mass index (BMI) and its related anthropometric indices, and estimated determinants of obesity.
METHODS: A cross sectional research design was carried out on a sample 932 adolescents (age 13-19 years old) using cluster sampling approach from January 2016 to January 2018. Self-administered questionnaires were used to collect data on sociodemographic variables including gender, age, economic status, and parental employment status. Dietary intake was assessed using fruit and vegetable (F&V) consumption food frequency questionnaire and physical activities was assessed using physical activity questionnaire (PAQ). Anthropometric indices were recorded including: height, weight, waist circumference (WC), hip circumference (HC), waist to hip ratio (WHR), waist to height ratio (WHtR) and body fat percentage (%BF), as well as random blood sugar, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Data were analyzed using appropriate statistical tests with SAS software.
RESULTS: Overall, 34.6% of participants were overweight and obese with BMI above the 85th percentile with20.2% in public and 14.4% in private schools. Participants attending public schools had significantly higher BMI ≥ 85th percentile compared to their counterparts attending private schools (p=0.001). Moreover, participants from public schools had significantly higher WC (p=0.028), WHtR (p<0.000) and %BF (p = 0.001) and BP (both systolic and diastolic). Higher BMI was associated with school type; participants from public schools were at higher odds of being overweight/obese compared to private school participants
(OR:1.34;95% CI:1.02-1.76). Overweight/obese participants had higher odds of having larger anthropometric indices including WC, WHR, WHtR, %BF as well as higher odds of having high BP (systolic and diastolic) as compared to underweight and normal weight participants. [R:1.03 95% CI:1.02-1.04; OR:1.0295% CI:1.00-1.03 respectively. Overweight and obese participants were significantly less likely to consume fruits and vegetables and were less active compared to their peers who were either underweight or with normal weights (OR:0.79; 95% CI: 0.72-0.86; OR: 0.54955 CI:0.38-0.78 respectively).
CONCLUSIONS: This study provided valuable information about the prevalence of overweight and obesity in adolescents of public and private schools in the UAE. The vital critical steps for obesity prevention in adolescents are the scaling up of observing and surveillance system, policy support, coordination, knowledge translation to formulate “best – practices” interventions in obesity prevention.
Keywords: Adolescents, BMI, waist circumference, hip circumference, waist to height ratio, Waist to hip ratio, percent body fat, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, public schools, private schools, fruits and vegetables consumptions, physical activities.