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Original Research

Nutritional status and socio-ecological factors associated with overweight/obesity at a rural-serving US-Mexico border university

Submitted: 20 May 2012
Revised: 10 August 2012
Published: 26 November 2012

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Author(s) : Wilson SL, Gallivan A, Kratzke C, Amatya A.

Susan Wilson

Citation: Wilson SL, Gallivan A, Kratzke C, Amatya A.  Nutritional status and socio-ecological factors associated with overweight/obesity at a rural-serving US-Mexico border university. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2012; 12: 2228. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


Introduction:  Globesity (the global epidemic of obesity), like undernutrition at the opposite end of the malnutrition spectrum, affects virtually all age and socioeconomic groups in developed and developing countries. Genetics, comorbid diseases and lifestyle factors have been associated with obesity and weight gain for college students. Little is known about obesity and lifestyle factors of campus students and employees located in rural areas. The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of overweight/obesity and socioecological elements of the obesogenic environment at a rural-serving US–Mexico border university.
Methods:  Data were collected using a cross-sectional, convenience sample by anasynchronous electronic survey submitted to approximately 23 000 students, faculty and staff on the main campus of New Mexico State University. Self-reported anthropometric indicators were used as proxy measures of nutritional status. Factors analyzed include the prevalence overweight/obesity from calculated body mass index (BMI) and self-identified body image in the contexts of sex, age, ethnicity, role at the university (student or employee) and residence. Body mass index categories were analyzed for associations with reported prevalence of stress indicators such as clinically diagnosed anxiety or depression, and major diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer and stroke.
Results:  A total of 3962 completed surveys were analyzed. Self-reported respondent rates (n=3962) of overweight and obese individuals (47.2%) were less than those reported for the state (60.7%) in a 2010 national survey. When BMI was analyzed by sex, there was a significant difference (p=0.003) between males and females. More males were overweight and obese than females. When BMI and BMI categories were assessed by age, ethnicity, role at the university and residence, each variable was found to have statistically significant differences.
Conclusion:  No one demographic or socioecological factor appears to have a predominant role in predicting obesity in the participants studied at this rural-serving university. The authors conclude that levels of overweight and obesity are multifactorial and should be addressed with more holistic actions. These findings suggest that future studies should look more closely at stressors in the environment as well as culturally acceptable versus ideal notions of weight and corpulence. Study findings also suggest that early intervention will be critical to reducing levels of overweight/obesity and associated complications as the population ages. Finally, this study provides evidence for health educators and policy makers to go beyond exercise and calories in/out to develop educational materials that can cross many barriers of culture, age, ethnicity, educational level, residence and body image.

Key words: body mass index (BMI), globesity, obesity, obesogenic environment, overweight, rural health, USA, US–Mexico border.

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