Objective: To determine the prevalence rates and level of awareness of obesity among people of different age groups in Morogoro Municipality, Tanzania.
Design: A cross-sectional, descriptive study.
Subjects: One hundred adults aged 19-50 years old and 40 pupils aged 14-18 years old.
Setting: Four educational institutions in Morogoro Municipality were included in the study. The four institutions included a primary and a secondary school, a teacher's training college and a university.
Results: The prevalence of obesity among the sampled subjects in Morogoro Municipality was 25 %, whereby 15.7% had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 25 and 30, and 9.3% had a BMI of more than 30. Age and occupation of all the subjects, together with marital status of adult subjects, were significantly related with obesity status. Prevalence of obesity increased with the increased age whereby subjects in the 41-50 years had the highest rate (45.4%). Employed subjects had higher rate of obesity (22.2%) than pupils or students. Similarly, married adults had higher rate of obesity (27.8%) than the single ones (4.7%). Unlike the old age group (41-50 years), 70% of the youngest subjects were not aware about the harmful effects of obesity. On the other hand, more than two thirds of all the subjects could not associate excess body weight with chronic non-communicable diseases such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and breathing problems.
Conclusion: Results of the current study indicate that obesity is increasingly becoming a public health problem in Morogoro Municipality, and probably in many other places in Tanzania. There is need for more public awareness on the effect of obesity on people's health through information, education and communication. It would be of great importance if such interventions were introduced at early age of life, for example by inclusion in school curricula.