Objective: To describe prevalence of and risk factors for overweight, obesity and self-perceived weight gain of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australian young people in custody at baseline and over 12 months of follow-up.
Main outcome measures: Body mass index at baseline, categorised as overweight or obese using international cut-points; waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) at baseline, categorised as increased metabolic risk (≥ 0.5) or low metabolic risk (< 0.5); and self-perceived weight change at follow-up.
Results: At baseline, 452 youths were incarcerated, 361 (79.9%) consented to participate, and complete anthropometry measurements were taken for 303 (67.0%). At 3, 6 and 12 months, there were 231 (76.2%), 158 (52.1%) and 143 (47.2%) participants, respectively. Two-hundred and sixty-four (87.1%) were male, 151 (49.8%) were Aboriginal, and 145 (47.9%) had been incarcerated for < 3 months at baseline. One hundred and forty-five (47.9%) were overweight or obese and 112 (37.0%) had a WHtR of ≥ 0.5 at baseline. However, only 72 (24.1%) perceived themselves as overweight at baseline, and 154 (71.6%) perceived a weight increase since incarceration despite improvements in diet and exercise. Longer incarceration time was strongly associated with overweight and obesity in Aboriginal youths at baseline and with self-perceived weight gain in non-Aboriginal youths at follow-up.
Conclusions: Overweight and obesity were highly prevalent but poorly recognised in young people in custody. A longer incarceration time had the strongest association with overweight obesity and self-reported weight gain. From a population health and policy perspective, changes to the liberal food environment and the approach to increasing physical activity in custody are warranted.
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