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Effective behaviour change techniques in the prevention and management of childhood obesity

Abstract

Rates of childhood obesity are increasing, and it is essential to identify the active components of interventions aiming to prevent and manage obesity in children. A systematic review of behaviour change interventions was conducted to find evidence of behaviour change techniques (BCTs) that are most effective in changing physical activity and/or eating behaviour for the prevention or management of childhood obesity. An electronic search was conducted for randomised controlled trials published between January 1990 and December 2009. Of 4309 titles and abstracts screened, full texts of 135 articles were assessed, of which 17 published articles were included in this review. Intervention descriptions were coded according to the behaviour-specific CALO-RE taxonomy of BCTs. BCTs were identified and compared across obesity management (n=9) vs prevention (n=8) trials. To assess the effectiveness of individual BCTs, trials were further divided into those that were effective (defined as either a group reduction of at least 0.13 body mass index (BMI) units or a significant difference in BMI between intervention and control groups at follow-up) vs non-effective (reported no significant differences between groups). We reliably identified BCTs utilised in effective and non-effective prevention and management trials. To illustrate the relative effectiveness of each BCT, effectiveness ratios were calculated as the ratio of the number of times each BCT was a component of an intervention in an effective trial divided by the number of times they were a component of all trials. Results indicated six BCTs that may be effective components of future management interventions (provide information on the consequences of behaviour to the individual, environmental restructuring, prompt practice, prompt identification as role model/position advocate, stress management/emotional control training and general communication skills training), and one that may be effective in prevention interventions (prompting generalisation of a target behaviour). We identified that for management trials, providing information on the consequences of behaviour in general was a feature of non-effective interventions and for prevention trials, providing information on the consequences of behaviour in general, providing rewards contingent on successful behaviour and facilitating social comparison were non-effective. To design effective behaviour change programmes for the prevention and management of childhood obesity, we would recommend utilising the BCTs identified as effective in this review. The impact on intervention effectiveness of combining BCTs should be the topic of further research.

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Martin, J., Chater, A. & Lorencatto, F. Effective behaviour change techniques in the prevention and management of childhood obesity. Int J Obes 37, 1287–1294 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2013.107

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2013.107

Keywords

  • childhood obesity
  • prevention
  • management
  • behaviour change techniques
  • taxonomy
  • effectiveness

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