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A systematic review of the effectiveness of individual, community and societal level interventions at reducing socioeconomic inequalities in obesity amongst adults

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Frances Hillier-Brown, Professor Clare Bambra, Dr Jo Cairns



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Background: Socioeconomic inequalities in obesity are well established in high-income countries. There is a lack of evidence of the types of intervention that are effective in reducing these inequalities among adults. Objectives: To systematically review studies of the effectiveness of individual, community and societal interventions in reducing socio-economic inequalities in obesity among adults. Methods: Nine electronic databases were searched from start date to October 2012 along with website and grey literature searches. The review examined the best available international evidence (both experimental and observational) of interventions at an individual, community and societal level that might reduce inequalities in obesity among adults (aged 18 years or over) in any setting and country. Studies were included if they reported a body fatness-related outcome and if they included a measure of socio-economic status. Data extraction and quality appraisal were conducted using established mechanisms and narrative synthesis was conducted. Results: The ‘best available’ international evidence was provided by 20 studies. At the individual level, there was evidence of the effectiveness of primary care delivered tailored weight loss programmes among deprived groups. Community based behavioural weight loss interventions and community diet clubs (including workplace ones) also had some evidence of effectiveness—at least in the short term. Societal level evaluations were few, low quality and inconclusive. Further, there was little evidence of long term effectiveness, and few studies of men or outside the USA. However, there was no evidence to suggest that interventions increase inequalities. Conclusions: The best available international evidence suggests that some individual and community-based interventions may be effective in reducing socio-economic inequalities in obesity among adults in the short term. Further research is required particularly of more complex, multi-faceted and societal-level interventions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hillier-Brown F, Bambra C, Cairns J, Kasim A, Moore H, Summerbell C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Obesity

Year: 2014

Volume: 38

Issue: 12

Pages: 1483-1490

Print publication date: 01/12/2014

Online publication date: 17/06/2014

Acceptance date: 22/03/2014

Date deposited: 05/02/2017

ISSN (print): 0307-0565

ISSN (electronic): 1476-5497

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2014.75


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