Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.
The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children (<5 years) in Cameroon, based on weight-for-height index, has doubled between 1991 and 2006. This study aimed to determine the prevalence and risk factors of overweight and obesity among children aged 6 months to 5 years in Cameroon in 2011. Four thousand five hundred and eighteen children (2205 boys and 2313 girls) aged between 6 to 59 months were sampled in the 2011 Demographic Health Survey (DHS) database. Body Mass Index (BMI) z-scores based on WHO 2006 reference population was chosen to estimate overweight (BMI z-score > 2) and obesity (BMI for age > 3). Regressionanalyses were performed to investigate risk factors of overweight/obesity.
The prevalence of overweight and obesity was 8% (1.7% for obesity alone). Boys were more affected by overweight than girls with a prevalence of 9.7% and 6.4% respectively. The highest prevalence of overweight was observed in the Grassfield area (including people iving in West and North-West regions) (15.3%). Factors that were independently associated with overweight and obesity included: having overweight mother (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.51; 95% CI 1.15 to 1.97) and obese mother (aOR = 2.19; 95% CI = 155 to 3.07), Conclusion This study underlines a high prevalence of early childhood overweight with significant disparities between ecological areas of Cameroon. Risk factors of overweight included high maternal BMI, high birth weight, male gender, low birth rank, aged between 13–36 months, and living in the Grassfield area while being Muslim appeared as a protective factor. Preventive strategies should be strengthened especially in Grassfield areas and should focus on sensitization campaigns to reduce overweight and obesity in mothers and on reinforcement of measures such as surveillance of weight gain during antenatal consultation and clinical follow-up of children with high birth weight. Meanwhile, further studies including nutritional characteristics are of great interest to understand the association with religion, child age and ecological area in this age group, and will help in refining preventive strategies against childhood overweight and obesity in Cameroon.