Background: The translation and dissemination of prevention intervention evidence into practice is needed to address significant public health issues such as childhood obesity. Increased attention to and reporting of external validity information in research publications would allow for better understanding of generalizability issues relevant to successful translation. To demonstrate this potential, recent reports of childhood obesity prevention interventions were evaluated on the extent to which external validity dimensions were reported.
Methods: Childhood obesity prevention studies that were controlled, long-term research trials published between 1980 and 2004 that reported a behavioral target of physical activity and/or healthy eating along with at least one anthropometric outcome were identified in 2005. Studies were summarized between 2005 and 2006 using review criteria developed by Green and Glasgow in 2006.
Results: Nineteen publications met selection criteria. In general, all studies lacked full reporting on potential generalizability and dissemination elements. Median reporting over all elements was 34.5%; the mode was 0% with a range of 0% to 100%. Most infrequent were reports of setting level selection criteria and representativeness, characteristics regarding intervention staff, implementation of intervention content, costs, and program sustainability.
Conclusions: The evidence base for future prevention interventions can be improved by enhancing the reporting of contextual and generalizability elements central to translational research. Such efforts face practical hurdles but could provide additional explanation for variability in intervention outcomes, insights into successful adaptations of interventions, and help guide policy decisions.