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Obesity prevention in the early years: A mapping study of national policies in England from a behavioural science perspective

Croker, H; Russell, SJ; Gireesh, A; Bonham, A; Hawkes, C; Bedford, H; Michie, S; (2020) Obesity prevention in the early years: A mapping study of national policies in England from a behavioural science perspective. PLOS ONE , 15 (9) , Article e0239402. 10.1371/journal.pone.0239402. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Evidence indicates that early life is critical for determining future obesity risk. A sharper policy focus on pregnancy and early childhood could help improve obesity prevention efforts. This study aimed to systematically identify and categorise policy levers used in England with potential to influence early life course (pregnancy, 0-5 years) and identify how these interface with energy balance behaviours. The objective is to identify gaps and where further policy actions could most effectively focus. METHODS: A behavioural science approach was taken using the Capability-Opportunity-Motivation-Behaviour (COM-B) model and Behaviour Change Wheel (BCW) framework. The key determinants of energy balance in the early years were identified from the Foresight Systems Map. Policy actions were scoped systematically from available literature, including any health or non-health policies which could impact on energy balance behaviours. Foresight variables and policy actions were considered in terms of COM-B and the BCW to determine approaches likely to be effective for obesity prevention and treatment. Existing policies were overlaid across the map of key risk factors to identify gaps in obesity prevention and treatment provision. RESULTS: A wide range of policy actions were identified (n = 115) to address obesity-relevant risk factors. These were most commonly educational or guidelines relating to environmental restructuring (i.e. changing the physical or social context). Scope for strengthening policies relating to the food system (e.g. the market price of food) and psychological factors contributing to obesity were identified. Policies acted via all aspects of the COM-B model, but there was scope for improving policies to increase capability through skills acquisition and both reflective and automatic motivation. CONCLUSIONS: There is substantial policy activity to address early years obesity but much is focused on education. Scope exists to strengthen actions relating to upstream policies which act on food systems and those targeting psychological factors contributing to obesity risk.

Type: Article
Title: Obesity prevention in the early years: A mapping study of national policies in England from a behavioural science perspective
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239402
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239402
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2020 Croker et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: Childhood obesity, Obesity, Food, Health care policy, Child and adolescent health policy, Schools, Conservation science, Social policy
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health > Population, Policy and Practice Dept
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10111488
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