Preventing childhood obesity: updating the Cochrane Review

Obesity prevention is an international public health priority. More children are becoming overweight and obese worldwide. Being overweight as a child can cause health problems and children may be affected psychologically and in their social life. Overweight children are likely to also be overweight as adults and continue to experience poor physical and mental health.

There is a huge amount of studies aimed at preventing obesity in children. The authors of the current Cochrane systematic review, which was up to date in 2011, screened more than 27,000 titles and abstracts. Up to 4,000 papers are published every year on this topic, so reviewing this vast amount of literature is a significant piece of work.

The Cochrane Collaboration is an international charity that organises medical research findings to help health professionals, patients, and policy makers make evidence-based choices about health interventions.

The last published Cochrane systematic review on this topic was published in 2011 and it included 55 studies.

A team at the University of Durham, led by Professor Carolyn Summerbell, updated this review in 2015 and found more than 150 randomised controlled trials – clinical trials where people are randomly put into one of two or more treatment groups – comparing interventions to improve diet, physical activity or both. But this updated review wasn’t published because of technical issues, and is now too out of date for Cochrane to publish it.

Project aims

The CLAHRC West evidence team, collaborating with the team at the University of Durham that carried out the 2015 update, will revise the Durham version, incorporating Cochrane’s comments. We will also include all the relevant randomised trials published since the Durham update, as a list of studies.

We are working closely with the Cochrane public health group to ensure this update is carried out to Cochrane’s high standards and it can be published promptly.

First we will publish an update of evidence. We will then update the methods and processes, including dividing it into three, focussing on a specific age range (0-5, 6-12 and 13-18 years).

Anticipated impacts

The updated Cochrane Review will provide important evidence on preventing obesity in children. It has the potential for impact on national and international policy change. This current version is a highly cited publication and is cited in five policy documents, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and Australia Policy Online.

See the current Cochrane Review.

Image credit: World Obesity Federation

Lead collaborators

  • Professor Carolyn Summerbell, University of Durham
  • Dr Tamara Brown, University of Durham

CLAHRC West staff

Tess Moore

Tess Moore

Dr Sharea Ijaz

profile picture Alison Richards

Alison Richards

Professor Russ Jago

Professor Russ Jago