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Research Urban and Regional Studies Institute PRC

The Socio-cultural Context of Overweight: Community and Policy Response in Tanzania

Principal researcher

Daniel J. Nyato

Type of research



Prof. I. Hutter

Dr. H. Haisma

Dr. A. Bailey

Dr. F. Mwaijande


The prevalence of overweight is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This raise concerns because overweight has been shown to be among important risk factors for a variety of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancers. With continuing globalization of diets and unhealthy lifestyles, rapid urbanization and industrialization, overweight will continue to increase, causing a further increase in NCD-related mortality. Despite increased motivation by researchers and international organizations to address overweight as an important preventive strategy for NCDs in SSA, there is limited research on how communities and the policies in the region respond to it. Previous research has only focused on prevalence and health consequences of overweight, leaving a lacuna on the response and their contextual influences.

This study is conducted in Tanzania, the fifth among top countries with highest rates of overweight in the WHO’s African region (WHO, 2000, Aracenta, 2009), and NCDs are already a cause of more than a quarter of all deaths (WHO, 2005).

Using different qualitative methods, this study examines 1) the nature of the discourse emerging from health policy-related documents regarding overweight in Tanzania, 2) different perspectives of policy makers regarding overweight, 3) the cultural perceptions and attitudes held by community health stakeholders regarding overweight, 4) the social and cultural meanings attached to overweight and body image by the community members, and 5) How community members articulate the relationship between overweight and NCDs. The study combines different theoretical insights such as cultural meaning systems, cultural perceptions and cultural schemas.
Last modified:07 August 2020 3.01 p.m.