ATTITUDES, KNOWLEDGE AND PRACTICES RELATING TO OBESITY AMONG ADOLESCENTS IN TWO PUBLIC SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN BUEA
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Obesity is one of the world’s top five leading causes of death. It is not only the excess fat level, but also how it is distributed throughout the body, that determines the disease’s health risks. Many non-communicable diseases are caused by it, or it acts as a risk factor for them. Because childhood obesity has been linked to adult obesity, adolescent knowledge and attitude must be assessed. Children are more likely to develop unhealthy eating habits and weight-related eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, as well as depression and substance abuse. The goal of this study is to assess the knowledge, attitude, and practice of adolescents in Buea when it comes to obesity. A sample of 200 participants (secondary school students) from two public schools were randomly selected using a structure questionnaire to achieve this goal. Using SPSS 21.0, the collected data was analyzed, and descriptive statistics such as frequency and percentage distribution of variables were calculated. According to the findings, adolescent school students have a good understanding of obesity, its causes, symptoms, and consequences (53.3 percent). Adolescents also have a slightly positive attitude (94.5%) toward obesity, as the majority believe that being obese is a sign of poor health, and that eating unhealthy foods is bad for adolescents. The study also found that, while adolescents have a good understanding of obesity and a positive attitude toward it, their practice (34.2 percent) is actually low. The study’s main recommendation was that physical activity should be given more attention and recognized as a fundamental component of public health work.
Keywords: obesity, knowledge, attitude, practice, adolescent
- Background of the study
Obesity can be seen as the first wave of a defined cluster of non-communicable diseases called “New World Syndrome,” creating an enormous socio-economic and public health burden in poor countries. The World Health Organization has described obesity as one of the contemporary worlds most neglected public health problems, affecting every region of the globe. Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems.
Obesity is defined as an excessively high amount of body fat in relation to lean body mass, and is associated with an increased risk of a number of health conditions (Ministry of Health, 2013). Obesity is a serious health problem and its prevalence has increased dramatically over the past 20 years. Today it is estimated that over 250 million people in low and middle income countries suffer from obesity. Globally more than one billion people are overweight and of these, 300 million are obese (Mandowara, 1986). Obesity has more than doubled worldwide since 1980.
In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these, over 600 million were obese; 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2014 and 13% were obese. Most of the world’s population lives in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight or starvation.
Forty-two million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2013 (WHO, 2015). “Although not all overweight infants become obese children, and not all overweight children become obese adults, there is a greater likelihood that obesity that begins in early childhood will persist throughout the life span” (Huffman et al., 2010). A number of studies revealed that childhood obesity becomes an epidemic and grave public health concern by promoting a number of chronic diseases (Bridger, 2009; Cameron et al., 2006; Akhtar-Danesh et al., 2011; He, 2007). The WHO classifies about 400 million people around the world as obese (WHO, 2013). Obesity is the fifth leading cause for deaths all over the world. Nearly 3 million adults die each year as a direct or indirect result of obesity (WHO, 2013) Cameroon is becoming a growing concern.
Adolescence is the period of crucial growth. During this phase physical changes including growth, the onset of menarche for the girls, and increase in fat and muscle mass takes place. This contributes to obesity. Adolescent obesity is associated with increased morbidity and mortality in adulthood. In Africa among adolescents increased consumption of more energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods with high levels of sugar and saturated fats, and combined with reduced physical activity (due to increased use of automated transport, technology in the home) account for obesity. Leisure pursuits are suspected as major contributors to rising levels of obesity (WHO, 2009).
Obesity may be caused by a number of social, cultural, behavioral, physiological metabolic and genetic factors that are beyond the person’s control. Symptoms of obesity usually show up in the form of breathing trouble, excess accumulation of fat, insulin resistance increase in size or number of fat cells that result in blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels (Pollock, 2009).
According to 1999-2000 US National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES), ten percent of 2-5 Years old and adolescents of 16-19 years old in the US were overweight. The prevalence of overweight and obese children has risen dramatically and at alarming rates in the past few decades in the developing countries (Pearson, 2015).
Adolescents is period of crucial phase of growth and development between childhood and adulthood, ranging in age from 10 to 19 years. It represents a period of critical transition in life and is characterized by a significant rate of growth and change. The biological determinants of adolescence are universal. They have been many changes over the last century during this period, including earlier on puberty, later marriages, urbanization, global communication and changes in attitudes and behaviours (WHO, 2017). Overweight and obesity, once considered as specific problems in high-income countries, are now on the rise in low- and middle- income countries, especially in urban areas. The prevalence of obesity is increasing in all countries of the world.
It concerns not only adults but also children and adolescents. Obesity is a major public health problem worldwide due to the consequences in terms of morbidity and mortality. The prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents aged 5 to 19 has increased dramatically from barely 4% in 1975 to just over 18% in 2016 (WHO,2O17).
In Africa, the number of obese children has increased by nearly 50% since 2000. More than 340 million children and adolescents aged 5 to 19 were obese in 2016 (WHO, 2017). In Cameroon, the prevalence rate of overweight among adults was 29.5% and the prevalence rate of obesity was 9.6% in 2016. Adolescence is a sensitive transitive transition period in which emerging life choices will have a lasting influence on health of adulthood. It therefore deserves special attention in a policy to prevent health risks linked to obesity. This study aimed to assess knowledge, attitude and practices (KAP) of adolescents regarding obesity in some selected secondary schools Buea.
1.2 Problem Statement
From the above, one can observe that obesity cut across all age groups and it’s of major public health importance in Cameroon. The type of food people eats and their feeding habit plays a major role in the development of obesity. The researcher predicts that adolescents in Cameroon have little knowledge on obesity, its causes, control and its socio-economic impacts in the population.
Knowledge of obesity and its predisposing factors could go a long way to controlling obesity in the general population. There is therefore a need to investigate the knowledge, attitude and practice of the population in order to put in place suitable public health policy to prevent or to control obesity. Adolescence is an age in which both girls and boys undergo major physiological changes and some habits developed at adolescent age can easily be carried over to adulthood.
In this study, we are proposing to undertake KAP study of obesity in the adolescent population taking the case of Buea as a sample. The results of this study could help put in place at the level of the schools and community educational programs to curb down the prevalence of obesity in the study population.
1.3 Objectives of the study
1.3.1 General objectives
The present study aimed at assessing the knowledge, attitude and practice of adolescents towards obesity in Buea.
1.3.2 Specific objectives
- To assess the knowledge of adolescents of obesity among secondary schools’ students in Buea.
- To assess the attitude of adolescents of obesity among secondary school’s students in Buea.
- To assess the adolescent practices toward of obesity among secondary schools’ students in Buea.
1.4 Research Question
- What knowledge do adolescents secondary schools students have about obesity in Buea?
- What attitudes do adolescents in secondary school have about obesity in Buea?
- What practiced do adolescent students in secondary schools have about obesity in Buea?