Major review of childhood obesity prevention interventions by setting published
2 November 2022
A major review of childhood obesity prevention interventions has been updated to include data from studies published up to 30 June 2021. Conducted by ARC West and the Universities of Bristol, Durham and Newcastle, Australia, the review is the largest of obesity prevention randomised control trials for school-aged children by setting.
Childhood obesity is a global problem. It is linked to a range of negative psychological, physical and social outcomes. Recent data suggests that the number of school-aged children with obesity increased during the COVID-19 pandemic in some countries.
Children living with obesity are more likely to develop life-limiting illnesses as they grow older. Appropriately targeted and relevant interventions to prevent childhood obesity could reduce the number of children living with obesity or overweight.
The research team based it on a Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis that previously only included data from studies published up to 2015. They looked at studies of interventions targeted at children aged 6-18 and analysed the evidence from 195 studies for a range of interventions in different settings.
The researchers found that school-based obesity prevention interventions have a very small but positive impact on children’s weight, these interventions can be useful in contributing to the reduction in the trajectory of overweight and obesity in these age groups. However, they found after-school programmes, community or home-based interventions weren’t effective in preventing childhood obesity but cannot rule out that this lack of effect might be because the interventions vary considerably in design and the studies varied in how well they were conducted.
Policy makers and practitioners will now be able to use the results of this rigorously conducted review to design and develop effective obesity prevention interventions.
Tess Moore, Senior Research Associate at ARC West and one of the authors of the review, said:
“This systematic review and meta-analysis provide an up-to-date assessment of the current evidence base on childhood obesity prevention interventions for school-aged children. More importantly, it brings together available data regarding their unintended adverse effects too.
“This information is essential because it will let us develop and prioritise childhood obesity prevention interventions that have the biggest impact.”
Interventions to prevent obesity in school-aged children 6-18 years: An update of a Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis including studies from 2015–2021