Supporting policy and practice decision making for system-level obesity prevention efforts: A compilation of evidence — ASN Events

Supporting policy and practice decision making for system-level obesity prevention efforts: A compilation of evidence (#228)

Rachel Clark 1 , Jennifer Marks 2 , Steven Allender 2 , Alan Shiell 1 , Katie Lacy 3 , Rowland Watson 4
  1. Centre of Excellence in Intervention and Prevention Science, Carlton, Vic, Australia
  2. World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, Deakin University, Geelong, Vic, Australia
  3. Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, Geelong, Vic, Australia
  4. Prevention and Population Health Branch, Victorian Government, Melbourne, Vic, Australia


In Victoria, Australia, considerable investment has been directed towards ‘Healthy Together Victoria’, a systems approach to prevention targeting obesity, smoking and alcohol use. Locally, practitioners are intervening in workplaces, schools, early-years, and other community settings. Research evidence plays a pivotal role in determining how best to intervene, however it is not always readily available or accessible to decision makers. To help navigate the overwhelming body of obesity-related research, we compiled systematic review-level of evidence of interventions targeting obesity and related behaviours.


A review of systematic reviews was conducted following pre-determined search criteria based on systematic review methodologies. Ten separate search strategies were developed to capture interventions according to key settings deemed relevant to policy and practice. A wide range of academic databases and websites were searched during April 2012 using key words describing interventions, populations or settings, and outcomes of interest. One researcher screened titles and abstracts and areas of uncertainty were discussed with a second researcher, who also conducted a 10% check on included reviews. All reviews were quality assessed using the quality assessment tool.

Key findings

Ninety-three systematic reviews were included and summarised individually in tables according to setting. Most focused on schools (n=60) or communities (n=31). Review quality varied, and few definitive examples of ‘best practice’ interventions were provided. Findings relevant to other settings were more consistent but fewer in number: family or home (n=20), early years (n=12), local government (n=8), health care (n=5), supermarkets (n=3), restaurants (n=2), and recreation facilities (n=0). Promising interventions did emerge in some settings from high quality reviews.


This study provides an overview of the best available research evidence for obesity prevention. It can serve as a tool to guide the use of research evidence versus practice innovation in implementation, level of practice evaluation, and research prioritisation.