Public Health Intelligence, Occasional Bulletin No. 34
Obesity is widely recognised to be a major public health concern, and inequalities in body fat distribution are of great current interest. This bulletin uses data from the 2002/03 New Zealand Health Survey to analyse ethnic and gender variations in socioeconomic gradients in body fat distribution, using a range of measures of body fat and of socioeconomic position.
The magnitude and even the direction of the socioeconomic gradients in body mass index and waist circumference were found to vary between males and females and between Māori and non-Māori ethnic groups.
These differences may reflect differential timing of the obesity epidemic in these population groups, cultural or behavioural differences, and/or differential lifecourse effects. If so, the ethnic and gender differences in the gradients may be expected to change over time.
These inequalities, and any future trends in these inequalities, may need to be taken into account when designing or evaluating policy.