Introduction Middle Eastern and North African countries have some of the highest obesity prevalence levels in the world (40% among women in Egypt in 2008). The prevalence of obesity in low-and-middle income countries has been rising in the last 2 decades and its socioeconomic distribution appears to be changing to the disadvantage of those with low socioeconomic status (SES) in many low-and-middle income countries.
Methods We first use five nationally representative survey waves (1992–2008) from Egypt to examine (1) prevalence trends; and (2) associations between SES and obesity using multivariate logistic regression and interaction tests. To help assess the policy implications, we are currently adapting the prediction model developed for the Foresight Tackling Obesities study in the UK to predict future obesity trends in Egypt.
Results Our regression analyses indicate that the rapid increase in obesity prevalence among low socioeconomic groups is the main factor driving the rise in overall prevalence. Adjusted coefficients of increase by education group were 7% (no education); 3% (primary education); 2% (secondary education);1% (higher education)-p-value for linear trend <0.001. Those most at risk appear to be those with low education and higher income (p<0.05 for an inhibitive interaction of education with income).
Conclusion Improving education levels appears to be an important policy approach to addressing both the prevalence rise and the socioeconomic inequalities in obesity in Egypt, particularly among lower socioeconomic groups experiencing rapid increases in income. Calculations from the prediction model will help quantify the impact of different educational policies on the obesity burden.
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