Degree Name

DrPH (Doctor of Public Health)


Public Health

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Megan Quinn

Committee Members

Hadii Mamudu, Mary Ann Littleton, Henry Doctor, Laina Mercer


Adult women bear a disproportionate burden of overweight and obesity in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Precise information to understand disease distribution and assess determinants is lacking. Therefore, this dissertation aimed to: (i) analyze the prevalence of adult female overweight and obesity combined in lower-level administrative units; (ii) analyze the effect modification of educational attainment and age on the association between household wealth and adult female overweight and obesity; (iii) synthesize qualitative research evidence to describe contextual factors contributing to female overweight and obesity at different life stages. Bayesian and logistic regression models were constructed with Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data to respectively estimate the prevalence of overweight and obesity and assess the interaction of education on the association between household wealth and overweight. The synthesis of qualitative research studies was conducted in accordance with PRISMA guidelines and findings were grouped by themes. Prevalence estimates revealed heterogeneity at second-level administrative units in the seven SSA countries examined, which was not visible in first-level administrative units. The combined prevalence of overweight and obesity ranged from 7.5 – 42.0% in Benin, 1.4 – 35.9% in Ethiopia, 1.6 – 44.7% in Mozambique, 1.0 – 67.9% in Nigeria, 2.2 - 72.4% in Tanzania, 3.9 – 39.9% in Zambia, and 4.5 - 50.6% in Zimbabwe. Additionally, education did not have a statistically significant modifying effect on the positive association between household wealth and overweight in the 22 SSA countries eligible for the study. Body shape and size ideals, barriers to healthy food choices and physical activity were key themes in the research synthesis encompassing four SSA countries. Positive symbolism, including beauty, was linked to overweight and obesity in adult women. Among adolescents, although being overweight or obese was not accepted, girls were expected to be voluptuous. Body image dissatisfaction and victimization characterized the experiences of non-conforming women and girls. Barriers to healthy nutrition included migration and the food environment. Whereas, barriers to physical activity included ageism. While additional work is encouraged to validate the prevalence estimates, overweight and obesity interventions must consider whether the determinants identified in this study are relevant to their context to inform improved outcomes.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.