Jackson, Maria D.
Author Affiliation, Ana.
Department of Community Health and Psychiatry
Risk factors for obesity in Caribbean women and children
Date of Publication
Obesity is emerging as an increasingly important problem in the Caribbean, especially among females. A recent population survey in Jamaica found that 32% of women were obese (BMI>30kg/m) compared with 7% of men, while investigations of Jamaican adolescents revealed that approximately 20% of 11-12 year olds had BMI>85th centile. Obesity-related strategies and initiatives suggest that Caribbean governments have the political will to tackle the problem as a priority health care issus. Recent studies and interventions have focused on lifestyle patterns and weight control with relative inattention to the perception and lay understanding of obesity or social and cultural meanings. Obesity is more common in Caribbean women with a family history of the disease. Some studies also suggest that obesity is linked with increasing parity and with lower socioeconomic status, but the evidence is not conclusive. Energy and the macro-nutrient content of the diet did not appear to predict obesity in females. The association between obesity and chronic diseases appears to be fairly well recognized, but knowledge of the role of over-eating and physical inactivity in the development of obesity is relatively poor. These issues highlight the need for: further education of the social and cultural factors for incorporation into prevention programmes; multiple approaches to obesity prevention with greater emphasis on education and training; and policy initiatives to address the barriers to effective implementation of programmes. Consideration of obesity occurs in the context of heightened awareness that several chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and cancer are associated with excess adiposity (Ravussin et al, 1993). The review by Dr Henry in his paper, discussed the mortality and disease burden of obesity-related conditions in the Caribbean. Prevalence rates point to obesity as emerging as an increasingly important problem in the Caribbean and particularly among females (Wilks et al, 1999). It seems clear that preventing obesity would be essential to the reduction of this trend.....