Are neighborhood education levels associated with BMI among adults I Cairo, Egypt

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Social Research Center (SRC)

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Mona Mowafi, Zeinab Khadr, S.V. Subramanian, Gary Bennett, Allan Hill, Ichiro Kawachi

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Social Science & Medicine - Elsevier

Publication Date

Winter 2-18-2011




This study examined the association between area-level education and BMI among adults in Cairo, Egypt. A sample of 3993 households including 1990 men and 2003 women were analyzed from the 2007 Cairo Urban Inequity Study, a study which aimed to identify potential intra-urban inequities in health related to the environment and living conditions in Cairo. Using multilevel analysis, we found that residents of high education neighborhoods were significantly less likely to be obese compared to low education neighborhoods. An inverse association between neighborhood education and individual BMI was observed whereby each unit increase in percentage of households with greater than a high school education was associated with a 0.036 kg/m2 decrease in BMI of individuals. This translated into a difference between high and low education neighborhoods of 6.86 kg (15.1 lb) for women based on an average height of 1.65 m and 6.10 kg (13.4 lb) for men based on an average height of 1.75 m after adjusting for sociodemographic, socioeconomic, health and environmental factors. These findings suggest that programs aiming to reduce BMI among adults in this setting may be well-served by focusing on education since it appears to have an effect at the neighborhood level over and above the impact it has at the individual level. This may be due to several factors such as greater access to knowledge and information regarding health and nutrition, greater food availability, and shifting cultural perceptions of beauty away from an ideal body shape of plumpness in favor of thinness in high education neighborhoods. The cross-sectional nature of our study does not allow for causal interpretations, however, so further studies exploring why the neighborhood education-BMI association is so significant is warranted.

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