Prevalence of obesity among Arab school children in Nazareth, Israel: comparison with national (Jewish) and international data


  • E. Ram,

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of General Surgery, Rabin Medical Center- Campus Golda, the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
    • Address for correspondence: Dr E Ram, Division of General Surgery, Rabin Medical Center – Campus Golda, Petach Tiqva keren kaiemet st.7, Israel. E-mail:

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  • O. Marcus,

    1. Department of Psychology, The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, Yezreel Valley, Israel
    2. Department of Psychology, Tel-Hai Academic College, Tel-Hai, Israel
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  • S. Joubran,

    1. Department of Psychology, The Center for Psychobiological Research, The Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Techion– Israel Institute of Technology and Medical Center, Yezreel Valley, Israel
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  • B. Abdo,

    1. Department in Nazareth Municipality, Pedagogical Municipal and Follow Up, Nazareth, Israel
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  • N. R. Asal

    1. Department of Epidemiology, Colleges of Public Health and Health Professions and Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA
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What is already known about this subject

  • Lack of published data.
  • Absence of Ethnic specific data.
  • Lack of focus on obesity prevention in Arab schools.

What this study adds

  • First set of data on obesity for Arab children.
  • Data will be used as reference data.
  • Alert health/school official for intervention.



The objective is to produce the first set of obesity prevalence data and use the data as reference values of body mass index (BMI) trends for Arab children in Israel and compare with Jewish and international data.


A prevalence study was carried out in 2009 in which 4130 children aged 6–12, were selected from eight Arab sector schools representing the Nazareth Municipality. Height, weight and BMI measurements were obtained and presented by age, mean age, size, weight, gender and percentile. Appropriate epidemiological and statistical methods used for comparison.


The obesity and overweight prevalence rates in Arab children by age ranges from 0% to 2.6% and 0% to 11.2%, respectively. Comparison with international and Jewish data revealed differences in almost all age groups but higher rates in Arabs, especially boys.


The higher rates/trends in Arab children may be explained by more Arab women entering the workforce, increase in single-parent families and changes in food and physical activity environments.


Based on our data, we recommend either an ethnic-specific BMI reference curves and/or inclusion of Arab data in the Israeli data system. Research need to focus on reasons for the increase and interventions to reverse/slow the trend.