Exploring the risk and protective factors associated with obesity amongst Libyan adults (20 -65 years)
AuthorsLemamsha, Hamdi Abdulla A.
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AbstractBackground Obesity is a highly complex, chronic disorder with a multifactorial aetiology that includes biological, psychosocial and cultural factors. Since the discovery of oil in 1959, Libya has been undergoing a nutrition transition. Despite obesity reaching epidemic proportions in Libya, there is a lack of information about obesity in Libyan adults. Aims The aims of this study were to investigate the risks and protective factors associated with obesity among adult men and women in Libya; to estimate gender differences in the prevalence of obesity among Libyan adults; and to explore key informants’ views about obesity within the context of Libyan culture. Design of study An adapted mixed-methods sequential explanatory design was used, consisting of two phases: a quantitative study in the form of a cross-sectional design, and a qualitative study in the form of semi-structured interviews, which followed up on the findings of the first phase. Method A multi-stage cluster sampling technique was used to select participants from the Benghazi electoral register. With a response rate of 78%, the sample consisted of 401 Libyan adults, aged 20-65 years, who have lived in Benghazi for over ten years; 63% were female. A survey questionnaire was used to examine the relationship between Body Mass Index (BMI) and the following four-predictor variables, derived from the Socio-Ecological Model (SEM): socioeconomic status; unhealthy eating habits; physical activities and sedentary lifestyle; and neighbourhood environment. Anthropometric measurements were collected from participants in their homes. For the qualitative phase, 9 Libyan healthcare professionals and 12 Libyan community leaders (key informants) were individually interviewed. A mixed-methods approach to study obesity has not previously been used in Libya. Results The prevalence of obesity among Libyan adults was found to be 42.4%, whereas that of being overweight was 32.9%. A significant positive association was found between obesity and two SES components (education level and income) in Libyan adults of both genders, while occupational status was significantly positively associated with obesity in women only. Obesity was significantly positively associated with fast-food consumption, and the consumption of large food portion sizes, in Libyan adults of both genders. In contrast, the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was significantly positively associated with obesity in Libyan women but not in men. A significant inverse association was found between breakfast consumption and obesity in Libyan adults. Obesity was significantly negatively associated with physical activity in Libyan women, while significantly positively associated with sedentary behaviour in Libyan women but not in Libyan men. Finally, a significant association exists between the BMI of Libyan adults in 6 of the 12 neighbourhood environment attributes. For Libyan men and women these were: street connectivity, ‘unsafe environment and committing crimes at night’, and neighbourhood aesthetics. For men only, these were: access to public transport, access to recreational facilities, and ‘unsafe environment and committing crimes during the day’. Finally, ‘residential density zones’ was significant for women but not for men. Three main risk factors were identified from the qualitative study. The first concerned the heavy subsidisation of staple food commodities in Libya; the second is Libya’s deteriorating health sector performance; and the third is the effect of the neighbourhood environment on physical activity and food, including the current political and economic instability in Benghazi which is potentially fuelling the obesity epidemic. These themes and additional sub-themes were categorised as belonging to one of the five spheres of the SEM (individual; interpersonal; institutional and organisational; community and physical environment; and public policy), resulting in the final conceptual framework of this study. Some of the qualitative results contradicted the quantitative results, resulting in some inconclusive findings. Conclusion These findings could inform Libyan health policies and the interventions that are urgently needed for preventing or controlling the obesity epidemic in Libya. Key recommendations are that an electronic health information system needs to be implemented and awareness about obesity and its causes and consequences needs to be raised among the public in order to dispel the many myths and misconceptions held by Libyans about obesity.
CitationLemamsha, H.A.A. (2016) 'Exploring the risk and protective factors associated with obesity amongst Libyan adults (20 -65 years)'. PhD Thesis. University of Bedfordshire
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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