Interventions to prevent obesity in 0-5 year olds: an updated systematic review of the literature

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Feb;18 Suppl 1:S27-35. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.429.


The small number and recency of the early childhood obesity-prevention literature identified in a previous review of interventions to prevent obesity, promote healthy eating, physical activity, and/or reduce sedentary behaviors in 0-5 year olds suggests this is a new and developing research area. The current review was conducted to provide an update of the rapidly emerging evidence in this area and to assess the quality of studies reported. Ten electronic databases were searched to identify literature published from January 1995 to August 2008.

Inclusion criteria: interventions reporting child anthropometric, diet, physical activity, or sedentary behavior outcomes and focusing on children aged 0-5 years of age.

Exclusion criteria: focusing on breastfeeding, eating disorders, obesity treatment, malnutrition, or school-based interventions. Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed study quality. Twenty-three studies met all criteria. Most were conducted in preschool/childcare (n = 9) or home settings (n = 8). Approximately half targeted socioeconomically disadvantaged children (n = 12) and three quarters were published from 2003 onward (n = 17). The interventions varied widely although most were multifaceted in their approach. While study design and quality varied most studies reported their interventions were feasible and acceptable, although impact on behaviors that contribute to obesity were not achieved by all. Early childhood obesity-prevention interventions represent a rapidly growing research area. Current evidence suggests that behaviors that contribute to obesity can be positively impacted in a range of settings and provides important insights into the most effective strategies for promoting healthy weight from early childhood.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Prevalence
  • Program Evaluation
  • Research Design / standards*
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • United States