Characteristics of effective interventions promoting healthy eating for preschoolers in childcare settings: an umbrella review
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Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) settings have a pivotal role in shaping children’s dietary food habits by providing the contextual environment within which they develop these behaviours. This study examines systematic reviews for (1) the effectiveness of interventions to promote healthy eating in children aged 2–5 years attending centre-based childcare; (2) intervention characteristics which are associated with promoting healthy eating and; (3) recommendations for child-health policies and practices. An Umbrella review of systematic reviews was undertaken using a standardized search strategy in ten databases. Twelve systematic reviews were examined using validated critical appraisal and data extraction tools. Children’s dietary food intake and food choices were significantly influenced. Interventions to prevent obesity did not significantly change children’s anthropometric measures or had mixed results. Evidence was more convincing if interventions were multi-component, addressed physical activity and diet, targeted individual-level and environmental-level determinants and engaged parents. Positive outcomes were mostly facilitated by researchers/external experts and these results were not replicated when implemented in centres by ECEC providers without this support. The translation of expert-led interventions into practice warrants further exploration of implementation drivers and barriers. Based on the evidence reviewed, recommendations are made to inform child-health directed practices and policies.
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