Obesity prevention and obesogenic behavior interventions in child care: A systematic review

Prev Med. 2016 Jun;87:57-69. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.02.016. Epub 2016 Feb 12.


Objective: Review peer-reviewed interventions designed to reduce obesity and improve obesogenic behaviors, including physical activity, diet, and screen time, at child care centers. Interventions components and outcomes, study design, duration, use of behavioral theory, and level of social ecological influence are detailed.

Methods: Article searches were conducted from March 2014, October 2014, March 2015, January 2016 across three databases. Eligible interventions were conducted in child care settings, included 3-to-5-year-old children, included an outcome measure of obesity or obesogenic behavior, and published in English. Study design quality was assessed using Stetler's Level of Quantitative Evidence.

Results: All unique records were screened (n=4589): 237 articles were assessed for eligibility. Of these, 97 articles describing 71 interventions met inclusion criteria. Forty-four articles included multi-level interventions. Twenty-nine interventions included an outcome measure of obesity. Forty-one interventions included physical activity. Forty-five included diet. Eight included screen time. Fifty-five percent of interventions were Level II (randomized controlled trials), while 37% were Level III (quasi-experimental or pre-post only study design), and 8% were Level IV (non-experimental or natural experiments). Most interventions had the intended effect on the target: obesity 48% (n=14), physical activity 73% (n=30), diet 87% (n=39), and screen time 63% (n=5).

Conclusion: Summarizing intervention strategies and assessing their effectiveness contributes to the existing literature and may provide direction for practitioners and researchers working with young children in child care. Most interventions produced the targeted changes in obesity and obesity-associated behaviors, supporting current and future efforts to collaborate with early-care centers and professionals for obesity prevention.

Keywords: Day care; Diet; Obesity; Physical activity; Preschool; Screen time; Young children.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Child Day Care Centers*
  • Child Health
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet / methods
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control*