Dietary patterns and physical activity among Palestinian female schoolchildren in East Jerusalem


  • Maha Nubani-Husseini
  • Elliot Berry
  • Ziad Abdeen
  • Milka Donchin



Aim: This study aims to assess the Palestinian girls’ dietary habits and physical activity patterns as a baseline for intervention.

Methods: A cross-sectional study of grade 4 and 5 pupils (mean age: 11 years) in 14 all-girl schools in East Jerusalem, of four different types of school ownership (overall N=897), was conducted, using self-administered questionnaires and  height and weight measurements. Logistic regressions were conducted to determine predictors of healthy behaviours.

Results: Only 36.6% of the pupils reported eating breakfast daily, with UNRWA schools having the highest rate of daily breakfast consumption (42.6%). About 28% reported eating the recommended daily quantity of five portions of fruits and vegetables. Only 15% of the pupils reported being active at least five days a week and more than one third of the schoolchildren viewed TV for ≥4 hours a day. The  prevalence of overweight and obesity was 22.2% and 7.6%, respectively, with private schools having the highest rates, 29.6% and 12.8% respectively (P=0.001). Additional predictors of overweight and obesity were: being the first child in the family, watching TV for more than four hours a day, always eating while watching TV and being physically active less than five days a week. 

Conclusions: Most Palestinian pupils miss breakfast, eat less fruits and vegetables than recommended and have sedentary behaviours. These findings raise serious concerns and point to the urgent need for tailored interventions.

Source of fundingThis study is a part of Ph.D. degree. Maha Nubani-Husseini received a scholarship from Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). She thanks Nutrition and Health Research Institute Al-Quds University for funding part of the research. The Linda Joy Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness Center for Women at the Division of Cardiology of Hadassah University Medical Center, directed by Dr. Donna Zfat funded the mothers’ activities and lectures towards the end of the intervention, as well as the implementation of the programme at the control schools one year after the study ended, as they were promised when they got selected.

Acknowledgments: The authors thank the participating schools, the Palestinian Ministry of Education, the UNRWA Office of Education and Jerusalem Municipality for facilitating fieldwork. Their gratitude also goes to Mr. Radwan Qasrawi (Al-Quds University), Dr. Marrio Baras and Dr. Deena Jaffeh (Hebrew University) for statistical support, and  to Mrs. Suzy Daher for editing.




How to Cite

Nubani-Husseini, M., Berry, E., Abdeen, Z., & Donchin, M. (2023). Dietary patterns and physical activity among Palestinian female schoolchildren in East Jerusalem. South Eastern European Journal of Public Health.



Original Research