Childhood and Youth Obesity: An International Perspective
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Childhood and youth obesity is a global public health issue. International studies can provide research findings and training opportunities to expand knowledge and initiate action on this issue. This manuscript-based thesis is composed of three studies that aim to better address cross-national differences in the determinants of childhood and youth obesity and the effectiveness of an obesity research capacity building initiative. The first manuscript examined cross-national differences in the chain food retail environment surrounding schools, student lunchtime eating behaviours, and the relations between these variables in 13-15 year old youth from Canada, Scotland, and the US. More chain food retailers were located within 1 km from schools in the US than in the other countries, yet fewer American students ate their lunch at a food retailer. An increase in the number of food retailers located close to schools was related to eating behaviours in Canadian students only. The second manuscript examined differences in the relationship between physical fitness and obesity measures within 10-13 year old children from three countries that sit at the early (Kenya), mid (Mexico), and end (Canada) stages of the nutrition and physical activity transitions. Negative relationships between aerobic fitness and obesity were observed in children from all three countries. Mexican children with low aerobic fitness levels had higher obesity values than did Canadian and Kenyan children. The third manuscript evaluated an obesity research capacity building initiative. This initiative consisted of a short course on obesity research developed by Canadians for early career researchers from Mexico. Student attendance and feedback demonstrated excellent reach. Dose delivered was high with all 21 course sections taught as planned. In the year following the course, students used a diversity of skills learned in the course suggesting that dose received was good. Barriers to research identified by participants included a lack of devoted research time and money to conduct research. The findings from this thesis contribute to an improved understanding of the determinants of obesity in children and how these determinants vary across countries. These findings also provide evidence that researchers from developed countries can help develop obesity research capacity in developing countries.