BACKGROUND: Childhood overweight and obesity is a health hazard and is an emerging public health problem.
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to determine the pattern of overweight and obesity and influencing factors among secondary school students in Ekwulobia town in Anambra state of Nigeria.
METHODS: This was a descriptive cross-sectional study. Subjects were selected randomly using multistage sampling technique. 250 students aged 12-19 years from three schools were studied. Calibrated mechanical weighing scale was used to measure their weights. Heights were measured with rigid meter rule. A semi-structured, self-administered questionnaire was used to collect data on their physical activities, dietary habits and parent’s occupation.
RESULTS: Mean age of the students was 15.6 years ± 1.75. Overall prevalence of overweight and obesity among them were 5.6 percent and 3.2 percent respectively. Females were more overweight than males (7.8% and 3.3% respectively), and also more obese (4.6% and 1.7% respectively). Prevalence of obesity was highest in the 18- 20 year age group (5.6%). Prevalence of overweight and obesity (combined) was higher in private school (10.7%) than in public schools (6.0%). Frequent consumption of soft drinks, meat pie, biscuit, sweet; and frequent television watching promoted obesity (P<0.001, P<0.001, P<0.05, P<0.05 and P<0.001 respectively). Occasional physical exercise, promoted overweight (P<0.05).
CONCLUSION/RECOMMENDENTIONS: Gradual increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity was found. However these are still much lower than in developed countries. Faulty dietary eating habits and sedentary activities are major culprits. This constitutes a major public health challenge. I therefore recommend the following:
Health education in schools, and media campaigns are needed. Policy makers, Health professionals, School authorities, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and National