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Nutritional status and dietary habits of urban and peri-urban primary school children (10-13 years) in Tanzania: A comparative study between public and private schools

Research Paper | September 1, 2021

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Renatha Pacific, Haikael D. Martin, Kissa Kulwa, Pammla Petrucka

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Int. J. Biosci.19( 3), 12-30, September 2021

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12692/ijb/19.3.12-30


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This study determined overweight and obesity prevalence and its association with dietary habits in primary school children in Ilala and Mkuranga Districts, Tanzania. A comparative cross-sectional survey was carried out among 406 school children (10-13 years). Indices such as weight, height, mid-upper arm circumference, and body composition were measured. Body Mass Index-for-age-related Z-scores were computed using the World Health Organization’s AnthroPlus™ software to classify children’s nutrition status according to the defined cut-off values. A structured questionnaire collected dietary habits data. Descriptive, non-parametric methods and regression were used for analysis. A combined prevalence of overweight and obesity was 22.6%, significantly higher in private than in public schools (32.4% vs. 14.8%, p<0.001). Prevalence of thinness was 3.9% and stunting was 10.1%. It is clear that medians for body mass index for age (p=0.002), percentage body fat (p<0.001), and mid-upper arm circumference (p<0.001) were significantly higher in private schools than in public schools. Girls also had higher median BMI-for-age (p=0.021), percentage body fat (p<0.001), and mid-upper arm circumference (0.006) than boys. Consumption of fruits, vegetables, and milk was relatively low in all participants. Intake of cereal foods and sugary snacks among boys and low preference for fruit among girls was associated with high median BMI-for-age (p<0.05). The prevalence of overweight and obesity among school children is high. Median BMI-for-age was associated with selected dietary habits. Context-specific school-based interventions are fundamental in reducing the prevalence of overweight/obesity and modifying the dietary habits of school children after formulating policy options.


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Nutritional status and dietary habits of urban and peri-urban primary school children (10-13 years) in Tanzania: A comparative study between public and private schools

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