A systematic review to assess the effectiveness of technology-based interventions to address obesity in children

Type Article

Journal Article


M. McMullan; R. Millar; J. V. Woodside

Year of publication



BMC Pediatr








BACKGROUND: Childhood obesity is associated with a multitude of co-morbidities, including hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Childhood obesity can also affect a young person's social, emotional and mental health if they encounter negative prejudice and social marginalisation. Given the prevalence of overweight and obese children globally, it is imperative that effective interventions are developed. Children are receptive to information conveyed via digital means, therefore, the use of technology may play a crucial role in interventions to reduce childhood obesity. This systematic review aimed to review and critically appraise the literature published to date in relation to the effectiveness of technology-based interventions, employed as secondary prevention, in addressing childhood obesity. METHODS: An electronic search strategy was undertaken in Medline and Embase, covering publications up to and including 12th July 2018. Randomised controlled trials assessing the effectiveness of technology-based interventions on weight-related outcomes in children, aged 8 to 18, published only in the English language, were included. RESULTS: From an initial search total of 1012 studies, 11 met the inclusion criteria. They were assessed for methodological quality using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool for Randomised Controlled Trials and were analysed using a narrative approach. The findings of this review showed a limited potential of technology-based interventions, employed as secondary prevention, to address childhood obesity. Of the eleven studies reviewed, three (27%) showed a positive relationship between technology-based interventions and weight-related outcomes in overweight or obese children. CONCLUSIONS: This review suggests that technology-based interventions, primarily active video games, as well as internet or web-based interventions and mobile phone communications, may, with further research, have the potential to impact positively on weight-related outcomes. It is difficult to determine the degree of efficacy of these technology-based interventions, as only two databases were searched, selecting only English language articles. Moreover, the included studies demonstrated a lack of high-quality evidence. The lack and heterogeneity of studies with technology-based interventions is a further limitation.