Nurse-led interventions in the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity in infants, children and adolescents: A scoping review

Int J Nurs Stud. 2021 Sep:121:104008. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2021.104008. Epub 2021 Jun 25.


Background and objective: Nurses are well-placed in primary care, school and community settings to identify and manage paediatric overweight and obesity. This scoping review examined what types of nurse-led interventions have been undertaken for the prevention, treatment and management of obesity and overweight in infants, children and adolescents.

Design: Scoping review.

Data sources: CINAHL, Cochrane Library, Embase, MEDLINE, ProQuest Central, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global, and Scopus. Searches were undertaken from inception to 2019.

Methods: Database searches and handsearching were used to identify academic and grey literature, such as scientific reports and university theses and dissertations, on nurse-led interventions undertaken in school, primary health care and community settings. Studies focused on addressing overweight and obesity in children and adolescents, for studies published from 1999 onwards. Studies included focused on experimental and quasi-experimental research that implemented interventions, and described new practice or change in practice.

Results: 117 references encompassing 83 studies or programs were selected for inclusion. 16 trials were analysed descriptively, and 67 trials were analysed descriptively and quantitatively. The analysis structured intervention settings and outcomes using the socioecological model, encompassing intrapersonal, interpersonal, community, organisation and policy factors. Studies included were clinically heterogeneous for intervention setting and multicomponent strategies. Education for nutrition, physical activity and behaviour change was the most common strategy used, and nutrition and physical activity knowledge most consistently improved after intervention. Nursing roles focused on education; counselling and behaviour change in primary care; advocacy in school and community environments; and implementing policy in child care settings. Fifty-four studies received financial or resource funding and support to implement the study. On sustainability, seven programs and two research studies were ongoing at time of writing.

Conclusions: While the clinical heterogeneity of studies makes synthesis of outcomes complex, it demonstrates the breadth of nursing interventions to address paediatric overweight and obesity. Incentives that encourage routine health promotion, upskilling of nurses, and embedding food and nutrition education into the school curricula, are suitable strategies that support nurse-led interventions against paediatric obesity.

Registration number: Not applicable. Tweetable abstract: Scoping r/v - what interventions are led by nurses to address paediatric obesity? 83 studies investigate nurses' work in school, primary health, community care.

Keywords: Community health nursing; Counselling; Healthy Lifestyle; Heath Education; Nursing services; Paediatric obesity; Primary care nursing; School nursing; paediatric Nursing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Exercise
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Nurse's Role
  • Overweight / prevention & control
  • Pediatric Obesity* / prevention & control