The Effectiveness of School-Based Interventions on Obesity-Related Behaviours in Primary School Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials

Type Article

Journal Article


S. Nally; A. Carlin; N. E. Blackburn; J. S. Baird; J. Salmon; M. H. Murphy; A. M. Gallagher

Year of publication



Children (Basel)







School-based interventions are promising for targeting a change in obesity-related behaviours in children. However, the efficacy of school-based interventions to prevent obesity remains unclear. This review examined the effectiveness of school-based interventions at changing obesity-related behaviours (increased physical activity, decreased sedentary behaviour and improved nutrition behaviour) and/or a change in BMI/BMI z-score. Following PRISMA guidelines, seven databases were systematically searched from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2020. Two review authors independently screened studies for eligibility, completed data extraction and assessed the risk of bias of each of the included studies. Forty-eight studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in a narrative synthesis. Thirty-eight studies were eligible for inclusion in a meta-analysis. The findings demonstrate that interventions in children when compared to controls resulted in a small positive treatment effect in the control group (2.14; 95% CI = 0.77, 3.50). There was no significant effect on sedentary behaviour, energy intake and fruit and vegetable intake. Significant reductions were found between groups in BMI kg/m(2) (-0.39; 95% CI = -0.47, -0.30) and BMI z-score (-0.05; 95% CI = -0.08, -0.02) in favour of the intervention. The findings have important implications for future intervention research in terms of the effectiveness of intervention components and characteristics.