The influence of socio-demographic factors on the nutritional status of children in the Stellenbosch area, Western Cape
CITATION: Kirsten, A. P., Marais, D. & Schubl, C. 2013. The influence of socio-demographic factors on the nutritional status of children in the Stellenbosch area, Western Cape. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 26(3):124-131.
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Objectives: To determine the prevalence of overweight and obesity, as well as socio-demographic risk factors associated with childhood overweight and obesity in the Stellenbosch area, Western Cape province. Design: A cross-sectional, comparison study was conducted. Setting and subjects: A representative group of 638 children (aged 6-13 years) attending three randomly selected Stellenbosch primary schools. An additional school was selected for the pilot study. In the screening (first) phase, children were weighed and measured to calculate body mass index using international obesity task force guidelines to determine the prevalence of overweight and obesity. For the comparison (second) phase of the study, only 24 overweight and obese children and 21 children of normal weight (comparison group) (n = 45) were included. Outcome measures: Socio-demographic and eating behaviour data were collected using a structured questionnaire and compared between the overweight and obese group and the comparison group (normal weight) to identify associated risk factors. Results: The prevalence of overweight and obesity was 13%, of which 9% (n = 57) were overweight and 4% (n = 27) obese in the screening phase. In the comparison phase, socio-economic factors, such as maternal employment hours (p-value = 0.0462); family characteristics, such as the number of children in the household (p-value = 0.0231); and time spent participating in sport (p-value = 0.0450); were significantly associated with overweight or obesity. Conclusion: Preventative initiatives should proactively promote healthy eating behaviour and physical activity in children at an early age, based on previous research, particularly in girls. Involving families and schools in these initiatives is recommended, as well as a national childhood obesity monitoring system to identify children at risk, and tracking childhood obesity trends to guide evidence-based interventions to tackle this growing public health issue.