Effectiveness Of Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs

sharma-obesity-kids-playing-outsideAlthough this is not my area of research or practice, I am all for preventing (and treating) obesity in children.

For those interested in this issue, a comprehensive and extensive Comparative Effectiveness Review and Meta-Analysis of Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs is now available from the US Department of Health & Nutrition Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The analyses include data from 124 interventions studies that met the inclusion criteria – most of these were school-based with or without additional community or home interventions.

The quality of evidence in support of the interventions in various settings was graded as high, moderate or insufficient.

Overall, the results can be summarized as follows:

“Based on studies conducted over periods of 6 months to 6 years, the strength of evidence is high that school-based diet and physical activity interventions with a home component or school-based combination interventions with a home and community component prevent obesity or overweight. The strength of evidence is moderate that school-based interventions contribute to obesity prevention. The strength of evidence is moderate that school-based diet or physical activity interventions with either home or community components using a combination intervention contribute to obesity prevention The evidence is either low or insufficient regarding interventions in other settings due to the small number of published studies, their moderate or high risk of bias, and conflicting results across studies.”

Thus, while there is some promising evidence on the effectiveness of interventions involving school settings, there is insufficient data on effectiveness of interventions limited to the home, community, child care ,or primary care settings.

Not discussed are the cost-effectiveness of these interventions or the long-term durability – given that the primary argument for focussing so much effort on preventing childhood obesity is to ultimately reduce adult obesity, it may yet be too early to tell if kids exposed to these interventions are indeed less likely to become obese adults than preceding generations.

I guess only time will tell…

Edmonton, AB