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Kingsley Agyemang, Speaker at Obesity Conferences
Brunel University London, United Kingdom


Introduction: Obesity is rising in West Africa. However, there is limited evidence on the determinants in the sub-region, and where available, the evidence base is patchy.

Objectives: This is the first study to provide a synthesis of the determinants of obesity in West Africa to inform policy and research practice.

Data Sources: A systematic search of the electronic databases; Scopus, Web of Science and PsycINFO and stakeholders’ engagement workshop were conducted.

Study eligibility criteria: Eligibility criteria included studies on obesity determinants conducted in West Africa, and involving participants aged eighteen years and above.

Study appraisal and synthesis of methods: The quality of the studies was appraised by two independent reviewers using the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality checklist. Data was synthesized qualitatively.

Results: Sixty-three (63) papers were selected. Majority of the studies originated from Ghana (n=22) and Nigeria (n=19). All included studies used cross-sectional study design. In all, 36 determinants were identified, of which majority (56%; n=20) were demographic, socio-economic, lifestyle and biological factors, and remainder were environmental factors, like physical proximity to fast food outlets. Only one study explored the effect of both individual and contextual factors on obesity.  Increasing age (OR=0.09, 95% CI= 0.12 to 65.91) and being a woman (OR=1.38, 95% CI=1.18 to 55.40) were the common determinants of obesity in West Africa. Lifestyle behavior including smoking and alcohol were found to be significant predictors of obesity.

Limitations: Heterogeneity of the methods of reviewed study methods precluded quantitative synthesis

Conclusions and recommendations:  Obesity in West Africa is determined by complex multi-faceted factors, requiring robust engagement with wider stakeholder groups to develop obesity prevention and control policies in West Africa.  Studies accounting for contextual factors are inadequate and there is the urgent need to address this gap in knowledge.


Kingsley is a Doctoral Researcher in the Division of Global public Health at Brunel University London. His research focusses on understanding the multi-level determinants of obesity with particularly the nexus between physical activity and healthy eating. Previously, he was a Senior Lecturer at the Ghana Insurance College.