School of Medical and Health Sciences
BACKGROUND: Childhood and adolescent overweight, obesity and underweight have become an issue of grave concern to both the developed and developing countries in context of global burden of non-communicable diseases. Unhealthy weight status is a significant public health issue for developing countries, of which Ghana is not excluded. This study evaluated the prevalence of overweight, obesity and underweight and its related factors among school-aged children and adolescents.
METHODS: A total of 1004 participants were randomly selected from six schools. A structured questionnaire on demography and socioeconomic status of students' parents/guardians was completed by the selected students. Anthropometric parameters were measured, and body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) were calculated. BMI-for-age z-scores were used to categorize anthropometric data of the children as underweight, normal, overweight or obese. A cut-off value of > 0.50 was used to define obesity by WHtR.
RESULTS: Overweight prevalence of 13.8% and 12.6 was observed among basic school and high school students respectively based on BMI classification. Obesity prevalence of 8.8% was found in basic school students and 8.9% among high school students. Underweight was observed in 114 (11.3%) basic school students and 86 (8.6%) high school students. There was a difference in sex prevalence in unhealthy weight-behaviours; with more girls being overweight (19.4% vs 7.6%, p < 0.001) and obese (10.2% vs. 7.3%, p = 0.177) compared to boys. High WHtR found in 10.5% of basic students and 5.0% of high school students, with a statistical difference. Overweight/obesity was significantly associated with taking snacks before bed among basic school students [aOR = 10.45(5.95-18)] and high school students [aOR = 10.23(5.95-18.37)] respectively. Watching TV [aOR = 0.39(0.22-0.70)], sleeping during leisure periods [aOR = 0.43(0.23-0.81)] and bicycling as a means of transport [aOR = 0.37(0.19-0.72)] to school was protective of obesity among basic school students.
CONCLUSION: High prevalence of unhealthy weight-related behaviours was observed among school-aged children in the Bekwai Municipality. Snacking before bed was a major factor promoting obesity among school-aged children while leisure behaviours such as TV watching, and sleeping were protective of obesity. Therefore, it is recommended to promote and support healthy eating habits among school-aged children which are likely beneficial in reducing the risk of childhood unhealthy weight-related behaviours.
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