The study, the first of its kind in Costa Rica, appeared in a recent issue of the "Revista Panamericana de Salud Pblica/Pan American Journal of Public Health," a monthly journal produced by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The study was conducted by experts from the Ministry of Health's Institute for Research and Education on Nutrition and Health and the National University School of Sports Sciences. The lead author of the journal article, Hilda Patricia Nez-Rivas, is with the Institute for Research.
The study sample, selected at random, included 1,780 children from the capital city of San Jos and other neighboring urban and rural areas, which together have the country's greatest concentration of elementary school children. Using the body mass index (BMI), which is calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared, the study found that the overall prevalence of overweight and obesity were 34.5% and 26.2%, respectively. Children aged 79, boys, children from urban areas, and those of a middle or higher socioeconomic status had the highest prevalence levels of these conditions.
Noting the findings' direct relationship between socioeconomic level and the prevalence of obesity, the researchers note that "this association appears to be a typical behavior for a country in economic transition," and that during the early stages, the wealthier sections of society show an increase in the proportion of people with a high BMI. They add: "This tends to change in the later phases of the transition, with an increase in the prevalence of high BMI among the poor." The authors cite previous studies carried out in industrialized countries
Contact: Mara Luisa Clark
Pan American Health Organization