Obesity Prevention Policies Should Include Environmental Factors

Environmental factors should be considered when setting obesity prevention policies, according to a new systematic review.


Doing so can address energy imbalance, improve dietary behaviors, and increase physical activity. In turn, obesity might be prevented.


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The review’s findings were presented at the American Public Health Association’s 2018 Annual Meeting & Expo on Sunday, November 11.


To gather their data, the reviewers searched online databases for studies that measured outcomes that can be translated into daily energy intake or expenditure. Studies on healthy US populations that evaluated direct interventions or policy or physical-social environmental changes were also included.


In all, the reviewers identified and screened 4767 citations. In addition, 98 studies were included for effect estimations.


The reviewers found a plethora of suggested and evaluated approaches to obesity prevention. However, the approaches were traditional and focused on individual-level interventions. 


As they continue their evaluation of this data, the reviewers will offer outcomes based on fiscal measures, physical environment and transportation system, worksite interventions, school-based interventions, food labelling, education, supply of food and lifestyle commodities, and population-based health care interventions.


“We noted a range of study designs that have studied obesity prevention policy effects, using complex unstandardized nomenclature,” the reviewers concluded. “We need more environmental studies that measure proximal behavior change in energy intake and/or expenditure so that these findings can be translated to energy balance.”


—Colleen Murphy



Hempel S, Richardson A, Raaen L, et al. A systematic review of the effects of obesity prevention policies. Paper presented at: APHA’s 2018 Annual Meeting & Expo; November 10-14, 2018; San Diego, CA. Accessed November 19, 2018.