Evidence-Based Obesity Prevention in Childhood and Adolescence: Critique of Recent Etiological Studies, Preventive Interventions, and Policies123
Author(s)Reilly, John J.
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AbstractPrevention of obesity in childhood and adolescence remains a worthwhile and realistic goal, but preventive efforts have been beset by a number of problems, which are the subject of this review. The review draws on recent systematic reviews and evidence appraisals and has a United Kingdom (UK) perspective because there is a rich evidence base in the United Kingdom that may be helpful to obesity prevention researchers elsewhere. Recent evidence of a leveling off in child and adolescent obesity prevalence in some Western nations should not encourage the belief that the obesity prevention problem has been solved, although a better understanding of recent secular trends might be helpful for prevention strategy in future. An adequate body of evidence provides behavioral targets of preventive interventions, and there are frameworks for prioritizing these targets logically and models for translating them into generalizable interventions with a wide reach (e.g., school-based prevention interventions such as Planet Health). An improved understanding of the “energy gap” that children and adolescents experience would be helpful to the design of preventive interventions and to their tailoring to particular groups. In the United Kingdom, some recent etiological evidence has been taken as indicative of the need for paradigm shifts in obesity prevention, but this evidence from single studies has not been replicated, and paradigm shifts probably occur only rarely. Ensuring that the evidence base on etiology and prevention influences policy effectively remains one of the greatest challenges for childhood obesity researchers.