Factors associated with the nutritional behavior of female students aged 13-19 years attending single and mixed schools in Kampala District
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Back ground: During adolescence, young people are in a sensitive transition period when they gradually take over the responsibility of own eating habits, health attitudes and behaviors and create lifelong habits. These habits not only determine their nutritional status but also their health status. The aim of the study was to determine the nutritional behaviors, nutritional status and the factors that are responsible for the dietary behaviors of female students in single and mixed secondary schools in Kampala district. Method: Self-administered questionnaires were filled by 357 students from four schools.ie one single and one mixed school from each division i.e. Nakawa and Rubaga and 353 questionnaires were used for the analysis. Of the total number of respondents, 177(50.1%) were from single schools and 176(49.9) were from mixed schools. Dietary behaviors and associated factors were assessed by the questionnaire. The nutritional status was determined by measurement of the Waist-hip ratio and the BMI for Age calculated using the WHO Anthroplus software. Results: A proportion of adolescents were found to have unhealthy eating behaviors such as excessive snacking (6.8%), meal skipping (87.0%) (30.9% skipping breakfast, 34.6% skipping lunch and 21.5% skipping supper) and reduced water consumption (71.1%). Lack of time, low appetite and dislike of served meals were the major reasons given for missing meals. Most of the students had normal nutritional status basing on BMI (67.7%) for Age (BMIA) and Waist-hip ratio (WHR) (95.5 %). According to BMIA, 3.1% were underweight, 24.4% were overweight and 4.8% were obese. Basing on the WHR, 3.4% had a moderately high WHR and 1.1% had a very high WHR. Class level (S1-S2, S3-S4 and S5-S6) significantly influenced skipping of supper (P=0.044) and the type of school (single or mixed) significant influenced skipping of lunch (P=0.012). Conclusion: Mixed sex schooling is significantly associated with skipping of lunch but is insignificantly associated the nutritional status of the students. Thus there is need to encourage female students in mixed schools to consume lunch daily. The prevalence of over nutrition is higher than that of under nutrition in both single and mixed schools in Kampala; therefore, there is need of nutrition intervention programs to improve nutritional status of the students.