Background: Childhood obesity is a significant global problem. Childhood obesity prevention interventions may be more effective when started very early in life before metabolic and behavioural patterns are established. Methods and findings: A prospectively planned, individual participant data meta-analysis of four randomized controlled trials. Participants were first-time mothers of term infants. Trial interventions commenced during pregnancy or early infancy and comprised education and support delivered via group sessions and/or home visits. Control group families accessed existing local well-child health care. The primary outcome was body mass index (BMI) z score at 18 to 24 months; 2196 mother-child dyads were available for analysis. Intervention children had lower BMI z scores at 18 to 24 months than control children (−0.12 adjusted mean; 95% confidence interval, −0.22 to −0.02, P =.017). There was some evidence that the BMI z score reduction was greater in settings with limited well-child health care programmes (interaction P value =.03). Improvements were also detected in television viewing time, feeding practices, and breastfeeding duration. Conclusions: Parent-focused intervention programmes that commence by early infancy and which aim to establish a trajectory of healthy lifestyle behaviours produced a modest but statistically significant reduction in BMI z score, which if replicated on a wider scale may have important public health implications.
- childhood obesity
- prospective meta-analysis