Which Environmental and Policy Interventions Prevent Childhood Obesity?

Collecting and synthesizing information about strategies and rating the strength of the evidence for their effectiveness

    • August 28, 2013

Dates of the Project: January 2008 to May 2011

Field of Work: Identifying intervention strategies that help prevent childhood obesity

Problem Synopsis: As the science around preventing childhood obesity evolves, it is critical to systematically classify interventions and review emerging evidence to provide the field and communities with a menu of proven and promising prevention strategies.

Synopsis of the Work: The research team developed a review process to assess the evidence for policy and environmental strategies designed to prevent or reduce childhood obesity, especially in disadvantaged populations. It included a typology that identified four levels of evidence and highlighted evidence gaps and ways to increase the evidence available to inform childhood obesity prevention strategies.

Key Results and Findings:

  • The review team identified 13 discrete nutrition and policy and intervention strategies and 12 discrete physical activity strategies, and rated them as follows:
    • Five first-tier effective physical activity strategies: community design; school physical activity standards and increased access to facilities; street design; neighborhood availability of recreation; and point-of-decision prompts for physical activity. No nutrition interventions were rated as first-tier effective.
    • Second-tier effective level: four nutrition and two physical activity strategies
    • Promising level: two nutrition and three physical activity strategies
    • Emerging level: seven nutrition and two physical activity strategies

    They also identified gaps in the evidence base, including insufficient information to determine the reach of intervention strategies, inconsistencies in the reporting of outcomes, and lack of knowledge about what influences policy decision-making.

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