The Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity among Undergraduate Health Sciences Students

By Adderley-Kelly, Beatrice | ABNF Journal, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

The Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity among Undergraduate Health Sciences Students


Adderley-Kelly, Beatrice, ABNF Journal


Abstract: Purpose: The purposes of this study were to (1) determine the prevalence of overweight and obesity among female health science college students, and (2) determine if there is a relationship among certain socio-demographic characteristics and overweight and obesity in this population. Research Design: A descriptive correlation design was used to conduct this study. Methods: A convenience sample of 151 undergraduate health science students officially enrolled in College participated in the study. A socio-demographic questionnaire, a digital bathroom scale and a standard tape measure were used for data collection. The socio-demographic questionnaire will be used to obtained demographic data and self report weight and height. The digital bathroom scale and the tape measure were use to obtain measured weight and height respectively, was used to obtain the measured weight and the standard tape measure will be used to obtain the measured height. True body weight will be determined using the Body Mass Index (BMI). Data Analysis: Descriptive statistics including frequencies, percentages and means will be used to describe the characteristics of the sample and to determine the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the sample. Spearman Rho Correlation analysis was conducted to determine the relationship among socio-demographic characteristics and overweight and obesity. ANOVA was calculated to determine if there were differences in BMI based on grade level. Findings: The majority of the sample was female, African American and ranged in age from 18-49 years of age. Over 40% of the sample was overweight or obese (42.8%): 24.3% were classified as overweight with a BMI from 25.1 to 29.6 and 18.4% were classified as obese with a BMI over 30. There was no significant difference in BMI among the participants based on grade level. Family history and age were positively correlated with BMI. Conclusion: The results of this study indicate important if not conclusive evidence that overweight and obesity exist among the sample of predominantly female, African American undergraduate health science students. More research is needed in this area and should include other variables such as childhood obesity, and dietary patterns. Implications: Obesity is associated with many significant health problems. Health care providers should screen for obesity using the body mass index.

Key Words: Overweight, Obesity, Undergraduate Students, Health Science Students.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing world wide at an alarming rate in both developing and developed countries. An estimated 129.6 million (64%) of Americans or 64% are overweight or obese. The greatest increase in the prevalence of obesity most recently has been reported in young adults 18 to 29 years. More than half of adult U.S. women are overweight and more are obese. Although rates of overweight and obesity have increased for all groups in society, African Americans are disproportionately affected.

According to the secretary of Health and Human Services (2005), the obesity epidemic is one of the major health challenges facing our nation and the African American communities are highly affected by this disease and its health consequences (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Obesity plays a significant role in causing poor health in women, negatively affecting quality of life and shortening quantity of life. African American women suffer from obesity at an alarming disproportionate rate when compared to women of other races. According to current statistics, between 50 and 66% of African American women can be classified as being overweight (Black Womens Health, 2002). Further, among African Americans, the proportion of women who are obese is 80 percent higher than the proportion of men who are obese. This increased prevalence of obesity among African American women makes it likely that they bear a disproportionate burden of co-morbidities attributable to obesity, such as diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia (Dietz, 1998)

One of the national objectives of 2010 is to reduce the prevalence of obesity among adults to less than 15 percent.

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