Childhood obesity is of increasing concern in many parts of Africa. The authors conducted a systematic search and review of published literature on behavioural childhood obesity prevention interventions. A literature search identified peer-reviewed literature from seven databases, and unindexed African journals, including experimental studies targeting children age 2–18 years in African countries, published in any language since 1990. All experimental designs were eligible; outcomes of interest were both behavioural (physical activity, dietary behaviours) and anthropometric (weight, body mass index, body composition). The authors also searched for process evaluations or other implementation observations. Methodological quality was assessed; evidence was synthesized narratively as a meta-analysis was not possible. Seventeen articles describing 14 interventions in three countries (South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda) were included. Effect scores indicated no overall effect on dietary behaviours, with some beneficial effects on physical activity and anthropometric outcomes. The quality of evidence was predominantly weak. Barriers and facilitators to successful interventions were identified, and these were largely resource-related. The systematic review highlights research gaps in targeting alternative settings to schools, and younger age groups, and a need for more rigorous designs for evaluating effectiveness. The authors also recommend process evaluations being used more widely.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(7): 1212
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