Dietary patterns and physical activity among Palestinian female schoolchildren in East Jerusalem
Authors: Maha Nubani-Husseini, Elliot Berry, Ziad Abdeen, Milka Donchin
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Aim: This study aims to assess the Palestinian girls’ dietary habits and physical activity patterns as a baseline for intervention.
Methods: A cross-sectional study of grade 4 and 5 pupils (mean age: 11 years) in 14 all-girl schools in East Jerusalem, of four different types of school ownership (overall N=897), was conducted, using self-administered questionnaires and height and weight measurements. Logistic regressions were conducted to determine predictors of healthy behaviours.
Results: Only 36.6% of the pupils reported eating breakfast daily, with UNRWA schools having the highest rate of daily breakfast consumption (42.6%). About 28% reported eating the recommended daily quantity of five portions of fruits and vegetables. Only 15% of the pupils reported being active at least five days a week and more than one third of the schoolchildren viewed TV for ≥4 hours a day. The prevalence of overweight and obesity was 22.2% and 7.6%, respectively, with private schools having the highest rates, 29.6% and 12.8% respectively (P=0.001). Additional predictors of overweight and obesity were: being the first child in the family, watching TV for more than four hours a day, always eating while watching TV and being physically active less than five days a week.
Conclusions: Most Palestinian pupils miss breakfast, eat less fruits and vegetables than recommended and have sedentary behaviours. These findings raise serious concerns and point to the urgent need for tailored interventions.