Childhood obesity is a significant public health problem that requires prompt interventions due to its physical, social, and economic burden on individuals, families, and societies. The incidences of this condition have been on the rise globally in recent years (Brown et al., 2019). It results in disruptions in the growth of children and predisposes one to obesity and overweight in adulthood. Several factors are attributed to the etiology of childhood obesity. These factors include a positive family history of obesity, inadequate breastfeeding during infant, poor dietary habits, lack of exercising due to increased screen time, and low socio-economic status (Brown et al., 2019). The basal metabolic index is the tool used to classify obesity in adults. However, its use is controversial in children, and the world health organization recommends using z scores. At the same time, other scholars suggest using fat distribution in the child through assessing the skinfolds (Narzisi & Simons, 2021). Although there are several strategies for preventing childhood obesity, only a few of them are proven to be effective (Brown et al., 2019). The current review aims to identify the best practices in literature for preventing childhood obesity.
Several studies have been conducted on the best practices for preventing childhood obesity. A systematic review was conducted to determine the evidence-based techniques for preventing childhood obesity in under-fives utilized thirty articles that used randomized control trials or quasi-experimental studies in their methodology (Narzisi & Simons, 2021). The cumulative sample size of the children instituted in these studies was more than 20000. These studies were conducted in different settings, including home, preschool, multiple settings, and hospital settings. Full-text articles and those, which passed a validity test by two independent reviewers, were included in this analysis.
This review came to several conclusions for the appropriate ways to study and manage childhood obesity. Narzisi & Simons (2021) posit that the community approach to managing childhood obesity was effective as this menace is a societal problem. Furthermore, the researchers need to provide incentives to the parents to reduce the study participants’ dropout rates. Additionally, education strategies aimed at teaching mothers on anticipatory feeding through timed schedules were effective in preventing overweight and obesity in children (Narzisi & Simons, 2021). Besides, education approaches, which taught mothers on distinguishing between hunger distress and other sources of distress, were appropriate as they resulted in reduced weight gain in infants by one year. Nevertheless, education programs need to touch on informing mothers on assessing satiety in infants (Narzisi & Simons, 2021). Hence, parental educational modalities are effective in preventing weight gain during childhood.
There are available clinically based studies to identify ways of preventing childhood obesity. A study was done to identify the techniques for lowering the BMI and body composition of Latino youths aged between 5 to 10 years (Crespo et al., 2018). 36 children from low socio-economic backgrounds admitted to a local hospital located along the Mexico-United States border were included in the study. This research utilized the randomized controlled trials whereby the participants were put into two groups; the intervention and the control groups. The interventions of interest targeted childhood behaviors such as dietary choices, physical activities, and sedentary lifestyles. Crespo et al. (2018) also assessed the effects of parental behaviors, including role modeling, parental techniques, and restructuring of the home scene. The participants were followed for one year, then qualified healthcare personnel assessed their BMI and body composition. These interventions did not result in significant changes in BMI. Some of the reasons attributed to this were the slow recruitment process and poor participation by families. However, there were commendable reductions in the body fat of the children (Crespo et al., 2018). Hence, avoidance of sedentary lifestyles and proper parental support may reduce body fat in children.
Interventions, which target the care providers, are also effective in preventing childhood obesity. A randomized control trial was conducted in a Swedish child health clinic to determine the effectiveness of a manualized education tool on motivational interviewing in preventing childhood obesity (Döring et al., 2016). The study involved 129 nurses who were trained on motivational interviewing techniques. Families of 1369 infants were put into two groups, whereby one group received interventions on healthy dietary practices by a nurse trained on motivational interviewing. The other group was given regular care on immunizations and physical development with little attention to the child’s health behaviors. The children recruited in the study were of 8-9 months, and they were studied up to 4 years. According to Döring et al. (2016), the findings in the fourth year showed that the intervention had no effects on the BMI, waist perimeter, and occurrence of overweight in children. However, this strategy had a significant influence in improving children’s eating habits necessary for preventing obesity.
Childhood obesity results in adverse health conditions and complications in its victims. Several preventive techniques are effective in avoiding this condition. These include parental education on proper eating habits of their children, avoidance of sedentary lifestyles, and parental support. Other interventions, including appropriate motivation for practical physical activities and dietary choices, are also instrumental in promoting proper food habits in children. However, this literature review found that additional studies are needed to identify the best practices for preventing increases in BMI in children.
Brown, T., Moore, H., Hooper, L., Gao, Y., Zayegh, A., Ijaz, S., & Summerbell, D. (2019). Interventions for preventing obesity in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (7). Web.
Crespo, N., Talavera, A., Campbell, R., Shadron, M., Behar, I., Slymen, D. & Elder, P. (2018). A randomized controlled trial to prevent obesity among Latino paediatric patients. Pediatric Obesity, 13(11), 697-704. Web.
Döring, N., Ghaderi, A., Bohman, B., Heitmann, B. L., Larsson, C., Berglind, D. & Rasmussen, F. (2016). Motivational interviewing to prevent childhood obesity: A cluster RCT. Pediatrics, 137(5). Web.
Narzisi, K., & Simons, J. (2021). Interventions that prevent or reduce obesity in children from birth to five years of age: A systematic review. Journal of Child Health Care, 25(2), 320–334. Web.