evidence-based blog of Filippo Dibari

Obesity in sub-Saharan Africa: development of an ecological theoretical framework

In Over-nutrition on September 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Alison ScottChinwe Stella EjikemeEmmanuel Nii Clottey and Joy Goens Thomas

Health Promot. Int. (2012) – August 29, 2012


The prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). There is a need for theoretical frameworks to catalyze further research and to inform the development of multi-level, context-appropriate interventions. In this commentary, we propose a preliminary ecological theoretical framework to conceptualize factors that contribute to increases in overweight and obesity in SSA. The framework is based on a Causality Continuum model [Coreil et al. Social and Behavioral Foundations of Public Health. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks] that considers distant, intermediate and proximate influences. The influences incorporated in the model include globalization and urbanization as distant factors; occupationsocial relationshipsbuilt environment andcultural perceptions of weight as intermediate factors and caloric intake, physical inactivity and genetics as proximate factors. The model illustrates the interaction of factors along a continuum, from the individual to the global marketplace, in shaping trends in overweight and obesity in SSA. The framework will be presented, each influence elucidated and implications for research and intervention development discussed. There is a tremendous need for further research on obesity in SSA. An improved evidence base will serve to validate and develop the proposed framework further.

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