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The present study evaluates the use of multiple correspondence analysis (MCA), a type of exploratory factor analysis designed to reduce the dimensionality of large categorical data sets, in identifying behaviours associated with measures of overweight/obesity in Vanuatu, a rapidly modernizing Pacific Island country.
Starting with seventy-three true/false questions regarding a variety of behaviours, MCA identified twelve most significantly associated with modernization status and transformed the aggregate binary responses of participants to these twelve questions into a linear scale. Using this scale, individuals were separated into three modernization groups (tertiles) among which measures of body fat were compared and OR for overweight/obesity were computed.
Ni-Vanuatu adults (n 810) aged 20–85 years.
Among individuals in the tertile characterized by positive responses to most of or all the twelve modernization questions, weight and measures of body fat and the likelihood that measures of body fat were above the US 75th percentile were significantly greater compared with individuals in the tertiles characterized by mostly or partly negative responses.
The study indicates that MCA can be used to identify individuals or groups at risk for overweight/obesity, based on answers to simply-put questions. MCA therefore may be useful in areas where obtaining detailed information about modernization status is constrained by time, money or manpower.
Rapid economic development and subsequent changes in lifestyle and disease burdens (‘health transition’) is associated with increasing prevalence of obesity among both adults and children. However, because of continued infectious diseases and undernutrition during the early stages of transition, monitoring childhood obesity has not been prioritized in many countries and the scope of the problem is unknown. Therefore we sought to characterize patterns of childhood overweight and obesity in an early transitional area, the South Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu.
We completed an anthropometric survey among children from three islands with varying levels of economic development, from rural areas (where adult obesity prevalence is low) to urban areas (where adult obesity prevalence is high).
The islands of Ambae (rural), Aneityum (rural with tourism) and Efate (urban).
Boys and girls (n 513) aged 6–17 years.
Height-, weight- and BMI-for-age did not vary among islands, and prevalence of overweight/obesity based on BMI was low. However, girls from Aneityum – a rural island where the tourism industry increased rapidly after malaria eradication – had increased central adiposity compared with girls from the other islands. This is contrary to adult patterns, which indicate higher obesity prevalence in urban areas. Multiple factors might contribute, including stunting, biological responses after malaria control, sleeping patterns, diet and physical activity levels.
Measures of central adiposity highlight an emerging obesity risk among girls in Vanuatu. The data highlight the synergistic relationship among infectious diseases, undernutrition and obesity during the early stages of health transition.
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