Fat, rich and beautiful: changing socio-cultural paradigms associated with obesity risk, nutritional status and refugee children from sub-Saharan Africa

Health Place. 2004 Mar;10(1):105-13. doi: 10.1016/s1353-8292(03)00051-0.


There has been an increase in Australia's intake of refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa over the last two decades. These refugees have been exposed to nutritional risks prior to migration, which, together with changes associated with acculturation, impact on their health and nutritional status post-migration. However, there is a paucity of data in Australia that has examined the health and nutritional status of this ethnic minority in Australia. Despite basic research assessing the nutritional status of children, none have specifically concentrated on the health and nutritional situation of sub-Saharan refugee children. In the absence of such studies, this paper explores issues relating to obesity in sub-Saharan African refugee children within a cultural and public health framework. We begin by outlining the history of obesity and its cultural meaning. We then move to a consideration of predisposing factors for obesity and how these factors translate into obesity risk contexts of sub-Saharan refugees post-migration. We argue there are a number of key challenges related to culture and the relationship between socio-economic factors post-migration that require addressing by health professionals, dieticians and health educators to ensure the delivery of successful health outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara / ethnology
  • Australia
  • Child
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Refugees*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Adjustment*