Faculty Sponsor

Dr. J. Koji Lum


Globally, obesity rates are continuing to increase and countries in the midst of modernization are most vulnerable. Developing nations are undergoing a health transition alongside rapid economic modernization. The nation of Vanuatu, like other Pacific island countries, is experiencing such a transition marked by decreased cases of infectious disease and increased incidence of chronic and non-communicable diseases. Aneityum is a small and sparsely populated island in Vanuatu and is behind more developed islands in its transition. This present study is the latest in a multi-year project examining health in Vanuatu as it undergoes a health transition with an increased prevalence of chronic disease, namely cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. In this study, we sought to continue tracking the population health on Aneityum, to analyze health differences between men and women, and to compare findings to previous data in Vanuatu. In July and August of 2023, adult males [n=41] and females [n=62] were surveyed and had their anthropometric measurements taken on Aneityum in Vanuatu. Mean anthropometric measurements (body mass index, body fat percentage, waist circumference) continued to be significantly greater among women than men (P-value < 0.05). Women exhibited higher rates of obesity in all metrics than in previous studies while men remained relatively unchanged. While men still have lower obesity rates compared to those from Efate in 2011, the women of Aneityum have reached similar levels as their counterparts from a decade ago. There is debate whether Ni-Vanuatu populations are more accurately measured by WHO or Asian-Pacific BMI cutoffs. When Asian-Pacific BMI guidelines are applied, male obesity rate rises 4.87% and the female obesity rate rises 17.74%, indicating drastically worse population health than previously thought. Potential explanations for the disparity in obesity rates between males and females include sex-associated fat distribution patterns, social inequality, and cultural habits. This paper provides valuable insights into the state of Vanuatu's health in its transitional period and a greater understanding of the interplay between sex and health.