Most effective ways to tackle obesity revealed

Increasing the price of unhealthy food and improving nutrition education in schools are among the many initiatives that could help address Australia’s obesity epidemic, according to a rapid review organised by the Sax Institute.

The Queensland Department of Health commissioned the review to look at which strategies were most effective in encouraging healthy eating and physical activity. These strategies will inform the development of a national obesity strategy.

Researchers looked at evidence from 89 studies (systemic reviews and meta-analyses) published over the last three years that examined the effectiveness of obesity interventions. The review identified 22 proven interventions that could effectively prevent obesity and 13 other interventions that showed promise.

Of the proven interventions, half involved healthy eating strategies, such as improved food labelling, restricting the promotion of unhealthy food, and providing healthy food subsidies for those in remote communities. Reviewers also identified physical activity, social and health care interventions that ranged from mass media health campaigns to school and workplace initiatives for reducing prolonged sitting times.

The review comes at a critical time in Australia’s fight against obesity, with 63% of adults and 27% of children now considered either overweight or obese. These high rates of obesity have serious health consequences, as the condition is a major risk factor for a range of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and many cancers. This disease burden impacts people and their families, and has considerable economic consequences.

This new review has shed light on the multi-faceted approach needed to encourage a healthier and more active population. Reviewers concluded that there is high-quality evidence supporting a range of interventions that could contribute to obesity prevention, and the best way to bring about the greatest change is through a mix of these strategies.

Read the full summary of findings or access the full rapid review here.

A Sax Institute Evidence Check conducts a rapid review of existing research and evidence that is tailored to a policy agency’s individual needs. To find out more, visit the Sax Institute’s Evidence Check Library.