Awareness on causes, consequences and preventive measures of obesity among urban married women in India

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Background: In spite of the numerous chronic diseases that have been linked to obesity, studies focusing on the awareness regarding causes, consequences and strategies to prevent and control of obesity among women are lacking in the literature, especially in developing countries such as India, where obesity is culturally accepted and nurtured and women bearded the highest weight gain in the recent decade. Objective: We explored the awareness regarding causes, consequences and preventive measures of obesity among 325 ever-married aged 20-54 years women with different levels of body mass index (BMI) in the national capital territory of Delhi representing urban India. Materials and Methods: A population based follow-up survey of women systematically selected from the second round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-2, 1998-99) samples who were re-interviewed after four years in 2003. As a part of qualitative data collection, the respondents were asked to free list open-ended questions on causes, consequences and preventive measures of obesity. Responses were analyzed through Anthropac software package. Results: Over eating was reported as the most important cause of obesity by normal and overweight women whereas obese women reported fried food consumption as the most important cause of weight gain. A few women from each group reported changing lifestyle as a cause of obesity. Also, there were lots of misconceptions about the cause of obesity among women (such as no tension in life, more tension, happiness, constipation, problem in Delhi's water etc.). In terms of the consequences of obesity, the participants were well aware of the common physical consequences. Normal and obese women reported breathlessness as the most important consequence whereas overweight women reported problem in standing and sitting. Regarding preventive measures, overweight and obese women reported 'walking' as most important preventive measure of obesity whereas normal women reported 'doing exercise'. In addition, 'dieting' was reported as the next important preventive measures of obesity by all groups of women. Conclusion: Our study of a fairly large, community-based sample of women has shown that women were aware of the complex nature of obesity in terms of causes, consequences and a range of potential solutions. The findings are important for public health interventions in obesity care in India. Implementation of health promotion and health education in the community should use effective school education and mass media programme to raise more awareness of the causes, consequences and preventive measures and hammer misconceptions, to combat the growing level of obesity among Indian women.