oa South African Family Practice - The prevalence and perception of obesity and its association with the lifestyle of women at the Mangaung University Community Partnership Project healthcare centre, Bloemfontein : original research

Volume 53, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 2078-6190
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6204



This investigation was prompted by the increase of obesity in developing countries with the simultaneous increased risk of preventable noncommunicable diseases. We aimed to determine the prevalence of obesity among women serving a predominantly black peri-urban community, who visited a healthcare centre in Bloemfontein. We also wanted to establish their perceived weight status, and any correlation between obesity, level of education, employment status and monthly income.

A cross-sectional analytical design was used. In June 2007, clinic-attending women aged 18-50 years were selected by a systematic sampling method to participate in the study. A self-administered questionnaire investigated participants' socio-economic status, body image perception, psychological well-being, self-reported health status and physical activity. Body mass indices (BMIs) were calculated from weight and height measurements.
A total of 304 women completed the study, of whom 98 (32.2%) were overweight and 134 (44.1%) were obese, with a mean BMI of 30.1 kg/m2 [standard deviation (SD) 6.9 kg/m2]. More than half (53.4%) of the obese women perceived themselves as not obese. Approximately 84% of the participants were educated to secondary level, or higher. A significant difference in the employment status of the obese and non-obese participants (26.9% and 16.5% employed, respectively) was noted (p-value = 0.0013). The obese participants reported significantly less low self-esteem (29.5%) than the nonobese participants (42.4%) (p-value = 0.0250).
The high prevalence of overweight and obesity, and the fact that 53.4% of the obese participants did not perceive themselves as such, poses a challenge for healthcare providers. Health-promotion strategies should aim to inform women about the health risks of overweight and obesity, and address misconceptions regarding perceived weight status.

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