How effective are interventions at reducing socioeconomic inequalities in obesity among children and adults? Two systematic reviews

National Institute for Health Research, January 2015

The objective of this study was to systematically review the effectiveness of interventions (individual, community and societal) in reducing socioeconomic inequalities in obesity among (1) children aged 0–18 years (including prenatal) and (2) adults aged ≥18 years, in any setting, in any country, and (3) to establish how such interventions are organised, implemented and delivered through a systematic review of the literature.

Of 56,967 papers of inequalities in obesity in children, 76 studies (85 papers) were included, and of 70,730 papers of inequalities in obesity in adults, 103 studies (103 papers) were included. These studies suggested that interventions that aim to prevent, reduce or manage obesity do not increase inequalities. For children, there was most evidence of effectiveness for targeted school-delivered, environmental and empowerment interventions. For adults, there was most evidence of effectiveness for primary care-delivered tailored weight loss and community-based weight loss interventions, at least in the short term among low-income women. There were few studies of appropriate design that could be included on societal-level interventions, a clear limitation of the evidence base found.

The reviews have found some evidence of interventions with the potential to reduce SES inequalities in obesity and that obesity management interventions do not increase health inequalities. More experimental studies of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions (particularly at the societal level) to reduce inequalities in obesity, particularly among adolescents and adult men in the UK, are needed.

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