Early childhood obesity prevention efforts through a life course health development perspective: A scoping review

The obesity rate in preschool children in the United States (US) is 13.9%, while even higher rates are associated with racial and ethnic minorities and children from low-income families. These prevalence patterns underscore the need to identify effective childhood obesity prevention programs.


A scoping review was conducted following Arksey and O’Malley’s framework to provide an overview of the types, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of obesity prevention interventions and policies in children up to 6 years old. Inclusion criteria were studies at least 6- months duration; included a weight-based outcome, conducted in the US, English publications from January 2001 to February 2018. Exclusions: studies in  overweight/obese children and obesity treatments, no comparator group. Evidence was characterized across the early life course and multiple-levels of influence.


From the 2,180 records identified, 34 met the inclusion criteria. Less than half of the interventions initiated during pregnancy, infancy or preschool reported a significant improvement in a weight-based outcome. All interventions included strategies to influence individual- or interpersonal-level health behaviors, yet few removed obstacles in the healthcare system, physical/built environment, or sociocultural environment. The majority (78%) of the interventions occurred during preschool years, with 63% conducted in early childcare education settings serving low-income families. The health impact of the state-wide and national policies on children under age 6 years remains unclear. There was considerable uncertainty around estimates of the health and economic impacts of obesity prevention interventions and policies.


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