Body mass index in Aboriginal Australians in remote communities

Zhiqiang Wang, Wendy Hoy, Stephen McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To describe the distribution of body mass index (BMI) and estimate the prevalence of potential chronic energy deficiency (CED) and obesity in Aborigines in remote communities (ARC) in the Top End of the Northern Territory, Australia. Methods: Centile charts were constructed for BMI from 1,631 sets of measurements from 1,138 Aborigines, aged five to 77 years, in three remote communities on the Tiwi Islands, using Cole's LMS method. These were compared with European, American white and American black reference charts. The prevalences of CED and obesity were also compared to the corresponding values from a national Indigenous sample. Results: The BMI centiles change with age. Compared with reference populations, BMIs are lower in ARC children and adult males. Young adult females have similar BMIs to American black and higher BMIs than American white and French counterparts up to 45 years. Aborigines older than 50 years are 'thinner'. Compared with a national sample of Indigenous Australians, our sample has a higher prevalence of CED and a lower prevalence of obesity. Conclusions: The BMI centile curves describe the contemporary nutritional status in the remote communities. Nutritional status measured by BMI is different in ARC than in other populations. Implications: The difference in nutritional status between ARC and other populations should be considered when planning nutritional intervention strategies. The centile charts will allow health workers to determine the relative ranking of BMI for individual Aborigines in the remote communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-575
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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