East African Journal of Public Health

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Body Mass Index and self perceptions of weight status among outpatients attending hospital health facilities in Dar es Salaam

Biatha. A. Shekalaghe, David P. Urassa


Background: Overweight/obesity is on the rise in developing countries, especially in urban areas. Although overweight/obesity is one of the leading preventable causes of death less is known about the prevalence of obesity and the perceptions about weight among patients attending healthcare facilities. Previous studies have shown that correct perception of body weight is an important factor in weight control. This study determined prevalence of overweight/obesity and assessed perception scores about body weight among patients attending healthcare facilities in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Methods: In this study, a cross- sectional study was conducted in three district government hospitals in Dar es Salaam. A structured questionnaire was used to collect data on socio demographic characteristics and perception about body weight, Height and weight were measured following standard procedures. Chi-square tests and logistic regressions were used to determine the prevalence and demographic factors which influence perceptions about body weight. A total of 410 outpatients aged 18-59 years were randomly recruited into the study.

Results: The prevalence of overweight and obesity among patients was 25.8% and 23.9%, respectively. This was higher among women compared to men (33% versus 14%). (P=0.02). Despite this higher prevalence, Majority of patients tended to underestimate their weight, (50.6%) considered their overweight as normal weight, (66.2%) perceived their obese status as normal. In total, only 41.2% of patients accurately classified their weight. Logistic regression analysis showed that Education level, (AOR=O.18. 95% CI 0.09-0.34), occupation (AOR=1.96 95% CI 0.86-4.50), and nutritional status (AOR=9.19, 95% CI 4.34-19.48), were significant predictors of correct perception of one’s body weight.

Conclusions: The prevalence of overweight and obesity is high in this population. However, more than half of overweight and obese outpatients had incorrect perception of their body weights. We recommend health facilities increase awareness of weight status and promote a healthy body weight. Increasing patient’s awareness of their overweight problems is the first step in preventing diet related NCDs.

Keywords: Outpatients, body mass index, self-perceptions, Non communicable diseases

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