Background: Recommendations for physical activity in the Guide to Community Preventive Services (the Community Guide) have not been systematically examined or applied in developing countries such as those in Latin America. The aim of this systematic review was to assess the current evidence base concerning interventions to increase physical activity in Latin America using a modified Community Guide process and to develop evidence-based recommendations for physical activity interventions.
Methods: In 2006, a literature review of both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed literature in Portuguese, Spanish, and English was carried out to identify physical activity interventions conducted in community settings in Latin America. Intervention studies were identified by searching ten databases using 16 search terms related to physical activity, fitness, health promotion, and community interventions. All intervention studies related to physical activity were summarized into tables. Six reviewers independently classified the intervention studies by the categories used in the Community Guide and screened the studies for inclusion in a systematic abstraction process to assess the strength of the evidence. Five trained researchers conducted the abstractions.
Results: The literature search identified 903 peer-reviewed articles and 142 Brazilian theses related to physical activity, of which 19 were selected for full abstraction. Only for school-based physical education classes was the strength of the evidence from Latin America sufficient to support a practice recommendation.
Conclusions: This systematic review highlights the need for rigorous evaluation of promising interventions to increase physical activity in Latin America. Implementation and maintenance of school physical education programs and policies should be strongly encouraged to promote the health of Latin American children.