Increase in Obesity among Women of Reproductive Age in Zambia, 2002-2014

Imelda K. Moise, Joseph Kangmennaang, Hikabasa Halwiindi, Diana S. Grigsby-Toussaint, Douglas O. Fuller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To describe trends in obesity in Zambian women of reproductive age and to identify factors that may have contributed to changes in trends and nutrition outcomes. Materials and Methods: We obtained data on body mass index and individual factors of women from the Zambia Demographic and Health Survey for the period 2002 to 2014. From these data, we calculated descriptive statistics and examined the extent to which factors link to the odds of obesity over time. We also reviewed primary and secondary data sources, such as government documents, theses, and search engines to identify factors that may have contributed to trends and changes in nutrition outcomes. Results: The proportion of obesity doubled from 2002 (12.5%) to 2014 (22.3%). The odds were higher among educated, currently married and wealthy women, and it increased with age. Rural residence and working in agricultural-related jobs were linked to lower odds for obesity. This disparity varies by province. In addition, despite the presence of many nutrition policies and strategies, the increase in obesity occurred within the past two decades when urbanization and other factors (e.g., sedentary work, a proliferation of fast food restaurants, and advertisements) may have affected changes in nutrition outcomes for women. Conclusions: We identified increasing trends in obesity in women of reproductive age over time. The rapid urbanization and other factors that occurred in Zambia during this period are significant risk factors for obesity in Zambian women. The findings will be of interest to countries that are undergoing a nutrition transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1679-1687
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • BMI
  • Demographic Health Surveys
  • Zambia
  • nutrition
  • obesity
  • overweight
  • sub-Saharan Africa
  • urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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