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Background Immigration to Italy has increased drastically, but there is a paucity of data on the health of these immigrant populations and the need to improve their health care. Therefore, we analyzed a multiethnic immigrant population in Bologna (northern Italy) to identify the risk factors for health. This anthropometric study was part of a multiregional project “Health Assistance and Monitoring for Indigent Italian Citizens and Immigrants” funded by the Italian Ministry of Health.

Methods The sample consisted of 401 adult immigrants from southeastern Europe (Kosovars, Gypsies, or Roma) and four extra European countries (Senegalese, Moroccans, Tunisians, and Pakistanis). Ethnic ancestry was self-reported. Anthropometric (height, weight, and waist circumference) and blood pressure data were collected during the survey.

Results The prevalence of overweight (and obesity) exceeded 50% in Moroccans and Kosovars of both sexes and in male Roma. The ethnic heterogeneity was associated with different patterns of obesity: the highest prevalence of abdominal obesity was in Moroccan and Kosovar women and in male Kosovars and Gypsies. The highest prevalence of hypertension (more than 20%) was in Senegalese, Kosovar, and Gypsy males.

Conclusions Some of the immigrant subsamples had a high prevalence of obesity, which is associated with morbidity. Our findings on the relationships between the anthropometric traits and the blood pressure suggest different cardiovascular disease risk profiles in the ethnic groups (higher for Kosovars and Roma) and an urgent need for preventive measures.