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Prevention and early intervention of overweight and obesity in young children: Evidence for management and policy making

The aim of this study was to conduct an extensive black and grey literature review to provide decision makers with practical information on key characteristics of best practice interventions for the prevention of overweight and obesity among children aged 2-6 years of age. In particular, the study aimed to determine how interventions in different (clinical, childcare and community based) settings can strengthen the role of primary health care providers (PHCPs) to overcome the barriers and facilitate the participation of parents in the prevention of overweight and obesity in young children.

The specific objectives of this study were to:

  • Analyse the national and political context for the development of primary health care interventions aimed at preventing overweight and obesity among young children and how to develop interventions within this context;
  • Identify and assess how best to overcome key barriers to effective engagement between parents and PHCPs including: systems level barriers; attitudinal barriers;communication barriers; knowledge, skill and training barriers; research barriers; and organisational barriers;
  • Synthesise evidence from a variety of sources to guide action aimed at strengthening the role of PHCPs, parents and communities in the prevention of weight gain among young children;
  • Identify a range of ‘promising’ interventions aimed at taking the problem of overweight and obesity in young children; and
  • Develop a conceptual framework for the prevention of overweight and obesity among young children focused on how best to engage primary health care providers and parents in the promotion of health lifestyles.

The review indicated a major gap exists for the development of programs aimed at children aged 2-6 years despite growing national and international calls for action to strengthen research on cross-sector, population focused. It highlights the importance of understanding and addressing key barriers to effective engagement between parents and PHCPs. In the absence of rigid scientific evidence based on randomized control trials to assess the success of PHCP interventions for the prevention of overweight and obesity in young children, this report outlines the need to synthesize evidence on “promising” interventions. To this end, it reviews a range of intervention options for use in different clinical, child care, and home and community-based settings, and appraises these according to their ability to engage PHC primary health care providers, enhance parent participation, promote a broader population based approach, and encourage primary health care providers to become involved in more upstream activities. The report outlines 11 promising interventions, highlighting how they engage primary health care providers, enhance parent participation, promote a broader population based approach and encourage primary health care providers to become involved in more upstream activities.

Project Duration

2005-2006

Funding Body

ANU Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute (APHCRI) & the Department of Health and Ageing

Publications

  • Hearn, L., Miller, M. & Campbell-Pope, R. (2008) “Review of Evidence to Guide Primary Health Care Policy and Practice to Prevent Childhood Obesity”, Medical Journal of Australia, 21 April, Vol. 188, No. 8, p.S87-91.
  • Hearn, L., Miller, M. & Cross (2007) “Engaging Primary Health Care Providers in the Promotion of Health Weight among Young Children: Barriers and Enablers for Policy and Management” Australian Journal of Primary Care, Vol 13, No. 2, p.66-79, August 2007.

For further information about this project please contact Dr Lydia Hearn at l.hearn@ecu.edu.au


Researchers

Dr Lydia Hearn
Professor Donna Cross
Mrs Margaret Miller
University of Michigan, United States, Professor Ken Resnicow
Curtin University, Ms Delia Hendrie

Staff

Ms Renee Campbell-Pope
Associate Professor Stacey Waters

Child Health Promotion Research Centre
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