Tuesday, 13 December 2016

alexandros_heraklides1Initial results of an ongoing research project on Obesity by the Medical School were recently presented at a Cyprus University of Technology conference in Limassol. Dr Alexandros Heraclides, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, who presented the results on behalf of the research team*, stated that: ‘Obesity is a major public health problem with constantly rising prevalence in both the developed and developing world, thus described by the WHO as a global pandemic. Few studies have been conducted in Cyprus on the issue and these reveal a high prevalence of overweight and obesity in the Cypriot population. What is still unknown, however, is the distribution of obesity in different sub-groups of the population and whether social inequalities exist, similar to those observed in other developed European and North American countries. Health inequalities refer to systematic differences in the health of groups of people according to their socioeconomic position, place of residence, ethnicity, and gender. Given the gap in knowledge on the specific issue, we aimed at determining the association between specific socioeconomic factors and body weight status in the adult Cypriot population and investigating the presence of social inequality in obesity among Cypriot adults. For the purposes of answering these research questions, data from a collaborative cross-sectional survey by the University of Nicosia Medical School and the Cyprus Ministry of Health were utilized. The study comprised 3,021 Cypriot men and women aged ≥25 years, from all districts of the Republic of Cyprus. The following socioeconomic parameters were investigated in relation to obesity: residency (urban vs rural), occupational social class, family net income, and educational attainment. Clear socioeconomic differences in obesity prevalence were observed in the Cypriot population. In particular, household income and educational attainment show a clear inverse gradient in obesity prevalence (the higher the socioeconomic position the lower the prevalence of obesity) among both Cypriot men and women. Obesity prevalence does not show any clear association with occupational social class or urbanization in men, but it is higher among lower social class and rural women. Overall, all associations were stronger among women than among men. In conclusion, the current findings can help in devising more targeted and efficient prevention and health promotion programmes for reducing obesity in the Cypriot population, which should target disadvantaged population groups showing the highest prevalence.’ Dr Heraclides concluded that this will improve the overall health of the nation by reducing obesity-related morbidity and premature mortality, reducing health related costs for care, as well as contributing to a fairer and more equal society.

*The other two members of the research team are Prof Andreas Charalambous, Executive Dean and Dr Ourania Kolokotroni, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology.