A synthesis of existing systematic reviews and meta-analyses of school-based behavioural interventions for controlling and preventing obesity

Obes Rev. 2012 Mar;13(3):214-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00947.x. Epub 2011 Nov 10.


Schools are an attractive and popular setting for implementing interventions for children. There is a growing body of empirical research exploring the efficacy of school-based obesity prevention programs. While there have been several reviews on the topic, findings remain mixed. To examine the quality of evidence and compare the findings from existing systematic reviews and meta-analyses of school-based programs in the prevention and control of childhood obesity. This paper systematically appraises the methodology and conclusions of literature reviews examining the effectiveness of school-based obesity interventions published in English in peer-reviewed journals between January 1990 and October 2010. Eight reviews were examined, three meta-analyses and five systematic reviews. All of the reviews recognized that studies were heterogeneous in design, participants, intervention and outcomes. Intervention components in the school setting associated with a significant reduction of weight in children included long-term interventions with combined diet and physical activity and a family component. Several reviews also found gender differences in response to interventions. Of the eight reviews, five were deemed of high quality and yet limited evidence was found on which to base recommendations. As no single intervention will fit all schools and populations, further high-quality research needs to focus on identifying specific program characteristics predictive of success.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child Welfare
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet / standards*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Schools / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Factors
  • Students / psychology
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*