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Open Access Research article

Double burden: a cross-sectional survey assessing factors associated with underweight and overweight status in Danang, Vietnam

Kiet A Ly1*, Thanh GN Ton2, Quang V Ngo3, Tung T Vo3 and Annette L Fitzpatrick4

  • * Corresponding author: Kiet A Ly

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Oral Health Sciences, School of Dentistry, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

2 Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

3 Department of Health, Danang, Vietnam

4 Departments of Epidemiology & of Global Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:35  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-35

Published: 14 January 2013



Many low- to middle-income countries are faced with an increasing prevalence of overweight/obesity while that for underweight remains high, a duality termed “double burden”; both are key risk factors for chronic diseases. This cross-sectional study assesses the prevalence and factors for underweight and overweight/obesity among adults in Danang, Vietnam, using WHO standard and suggested Asian-specific BMI cut-offs.


In 2010, 1713 residents age ≥35 years from 900 households in 6 of 56 urban, rural and mixed urban–rural communes in Danang were selected using multistage-cluster sampling methodology to participate; 1621 qualified adults enrolled. Participants completed a health survey based on WHO STEPwise Approach to Chronic Disease Risk Factor Surveillance and additional questions on chest pain and stroke symptoms. Anthropometric and other measurements were conducted. Relative risk regression was used to identify independent risk factors for underweight or overweight/obesity according to WHO standard cut-offs and suggested Asian-specific cut-offs (<18.5 kg/m2 or 23–27.49 kg/m2; and ≥27.5 kg/m2).


We observed 12.4% prevalence of underweight and 16.0% for overweight/obesity using WHO standard. The prevalence of overweight/obesity doubled (33.7%) when Asian-specific cut-offs were applied. For both definitions, rural communes had the highest prevalence of underweight while urban communes had the highest prevalence of overweight/obesity. Being underweight was associated with less urbanization. Factors independently associated with being underweight included older age, rural living, current smoking, and lower systolic pressure. Factors independently associated with Asian-specific BMI definition for being overweight/obese included older age, urbanization, higher systolic pressure, and diabetes. Age was not an independent factor with WHO standard cut-offs; however, myocarial infarction and diabetes showed strong associations.


The double burden of underweight and overweight/obesity observed in Danang is consistent with patterns found for large cities in Vietnam that are undergoing rapid economic growth and urbanization of lifestyle. Factors independently associated with underweight and overweight/obesity status by WHO standard and Asian-specific definitions include urbanization and modifiable lifestyle factors. Further studies are needed to define ethnic specific BMI cut-offs for Vietnam and to explore strategies to reduce the rising prevalence of overweight/obesity.