Risk profiles for non-communicable diseases in rural and urban schoolchildren in the Republic of Cameroon

Munro H. Proctor, Lynn L. Moore, Martha R. Singer, Maggie Y. Hood, Uyen Sa D.T. Nguyen, R. Curtis Ellison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objectives: In developing countries, there is evidence that the median age of the population and the life expectancy at birth are increasing as a result of decreasing fertility rates and infant mortality. The result is an aging population more prone to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, or heart disease later in life. In addition, changing lifestyle factors such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, and high fat diets, may accelerate the emergence of such chronic diseases as major causes of death and disability in these countries, particularly in urban areas. To test the premise that urban living predisposes residents to reduced activity levels, less healthy diets, cigarette smoking, elevated blood pressure, and increased body fat early in life, we studied rural/urban differences in these risk factors among schoolchildren in the Republic of Cameroon. Methods: One hundred and nineteen Class 7 schoolchildren (50 urban and 69 rural) were interviewed concerning diet, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol use; blood pressure and anthropometric measurements were also taken. Results: Physical activity among rural children was more than twice that of urban children, and most of the activity for rural children was work-related. Rural children consumed fewer foods containing fat and more fruits and vegetables. Adjusting for age, systolic and diastolic blood pressures of urban boys were higher than those of rural boys, and among urban children there was a trend toward a larger age-adjusted mean body mass index (BMI). There were no differences in alcohol or tobacco use between urban and rural children. Conclusions: In this study, urbanization was associated with a less active lifestyle and a dietary pattern that was higher in fat and lower in fruit and vegetable intake. Since risk factors for non-communicable diseases tend to appear early in life and track into adulthood, it is important to identify those children, or groups of children, with unfavorable risk profiles and to structure health education and promotion programs to modify these trends.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-243
Number of pages9
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1 Sep 1996


  • Cameroon
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diet
  • Risk Factors


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