Open Access Research article

High prevalence of overweight among adolescents in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Phuong Van Ngoc Nguyen1*, Tang Kim Hong1, Truong Hoang1, Dung The Nguyen1 and Annie R Robert23

Author Affiliations

1 Pham Ngoc Thach Medical University, 86/2 Thanh Thai Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

2 Université catholique de Louvain - SSS/IREC/EPID , Institut de Recherche Expérimentale et Clinique, Clos Chapelle-aux-Champs 30 – UCL B1.30.13, B1200, Brussels, Belgium

3 Research division EPID, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Brussels, Belgium

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:141  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-141

Published: 15 February 2013



Two previous surveys conducted in Ho Chi Minh City revealed an increasing prevalence of overweight and obese adolescents, from 5.9% in 2002 to 11.7% in 2004. From 2004 to 2010, the government set up and implemented health promotion programs to promote physical activity and good nutritional habits in order to prevent overweight and obesity in children and adolescents. Our study aimed to estimate the prevalence of overweight and obesity among adolescents in urban areas of Ho Chi Minh City in 2010.


A representative sample of 1,989 students aged 11–14 years was selected using a multistage cluster sampling method. 23 schools were randomly selected from the full list of all public junior high schools. In each selected school, 2 classes were chosen at random and all students from the class were examined. Age- and sex-adjusted overweight and obesity were defined using International Obesity Taskforce cut-offs.


The prevalences of overweight and obesity were 17.8% and 3.2%, respectively. Prevalences of overweight and obesity were significantly higher in boys (22%, 5.4% ) than in girls (13.3%, 1.3%, p<0.001) and higher in children from districts with a high economic level (20.5% , 3.8% ) than in those from districts with a low economic level (12.1%, 3.8%, p<0.001). Additionally, children living in wealthier families were more overweight and obese than those living in less wealthy families. When using WHO cutoffs, the overall prevalences of overweight and obesity reached 19.6% and 7.9%, respectively.


Our study’s findings suggest that the prevalence of overweight and obesity among secondary school students remains high, especially among boys living in wealthier families. Public health programs should therefore be developed or improved in order to promote good eating habits and physical activity among youth in HCMC.

Adolescent overweight; Ho Chi Minh City; IOTF definition; Obesity; Prevalence; Socioeconomic; Vietnam