The prevalence of obesity and related risk factors amongst nurses in a public health hospital in KwaZulu-Natal.
Introduction: The prevalence of obesity in South Africa and throughout the world is increasing. Obesity is related to hypertension, atherosclerosis, diabetes, dyslipidemia and other sub-clinical conditions. Aim: To establish the prevalence of obesity and related risk factors among nurses in a public health hospital in KwaZulu-Natal. Methods: The design entailed a cross-sectional survey among 250 randomly selected nurses (22-64 years) working in King Edward Hospital (KZN). Obesity was measured using anthropometric and derived parameters of stature, body mass, body mass index (BMI) and waist to hip ratios (WHR). Related risks were determined using a screening questionnaire. Results: The mean body mass and BMI observed was 84.42 ± 17.49 kg and 32.60± 6.34 kg/m2, respectively with 76.10% of the sample being overweight or obese (64.80%; BMI~30). The mean waist circumference (93.01±12.73 cm) fell into the high risk category. A large proportion (30.4%) reported experiencing lower back pain. A significant crude odds ratio (OR) was found between obesity and the risk for lower back pain with an OR of 2.53 (CI 1.12 - 5.71). An increased but insignificant risk was observed in obese individuals for hypertension (OR 1.85: CI 0.63 - 5.40). Stressed individuals (PSS> 13) had an increased but insignificant risk for obesity (OR 1.78: CI 0.70 - 4.50) but a significantly increased risk for lower back pain (OR 8.59: CI 2.00-36.85; p:S0.05). Only 79 of the 250 nurses (31.6%) from our sample reported doing vigorous exercises on a regular basis and the nature of their exercise programs did not protect against the risk of obesity (OR 2.18: CI 1.03-4.60; p:S0.05). Discussion and Conclusion: A high prevalence of obesity and related risk factors among this population of nurses in a public hospital, and potentially in the nursing occupation at large, should be addressed within the context of employee wellbeing. The need for education on appropriate diet and exercise programming in order to prevent hypokinesis and associated diseases of lifestyle is evident. Key words: Nurses, Body Mass Index, Obesity, Low Back Pain, Hypertension, Stress, Hypokinesis