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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Johns Hopkins: Obesity Burden Increasing Rapidly Among Lower-Income Groups in Latin America and the Caribbean

Findings from a new study reveal the increasing and rapidly shifting obesity epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean and show that lower socioeconomic groups are bearing the brunt of the rising obesity rates in a region known for large income inequalities. The study, published in Lancet Global Health, was led by Ms. Safia Jiwani, a research associate in the department of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

For the study, researchers investigated inequalities in obesity in 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries and trends over the past two decades in five countries. The analysis included 479,809 adult men and women with body mass index (BMI) data from 23 national health surveys conducted between 1998 and 2017. Measures such as wealth, education, and place of residence were used to group individuals into five socioeconomic levels. The obesity gap was defined as the difference in percentage points between the highest and lowest obesity prevalence estimates among the five socioeconomic levels.

The highest prevalence of obesity was observed among women in Mexico in 2016, and the lowest among women in Haiti in 2016. The findings point to three main patterns of the shifting obesity burden across socioeconomic status: a concentration of obesity among the low wealth and education groups (i.e., Argentina); a larger burden among the middle wealth and education groups (i.e., women in Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia); and the largest burden among the highest wealth and education groups (i.e., women in Haiti and Guatemala).

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