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Childhood obesity

Research by Sport and Exercise Sciences has made a positive impact on policy and practice addressing the global problem of childhood obesity.

Led by Professor Carolyn Summerbell, this work has developed pioneering interventions and evidence based recommendations to tackle a problem experienced by over 70 million children worldwide.

Innovative interventions that work

Professor Summerbell’s research focused on reviewing the effectiveness of a range of interventions that include physical activity and diet, to prevent childhood obesity. The findings of this Cochrane review were used by the World Health Organisation in their Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity.

Her Cochrane review found that a “whole-systems approach” to tackling childhood obesity, which includes a combination of different interventions such as school policies about travel to school, sport and physical activity, and healthy eating, was much more effective across children from a range of family backgrounds.

She has called for a greater focus on health equality, especially in helping to reach children from low-income families so they develop healthy habits through appropriate diet, sleep and physical activity. 

Preventing childhood obesity

Professor Summerbell was greatly involved in a major European study called the ToyBox Study, which was aimed at preventing obesity in pre-school children.

Her evidence-based study led her to recommend encouraging parents to engage more with their children’s diet and physical activity, rewarding kids for taking part in the interventions and normalising physical activity and healthy eating in nursery schools. She also suggested putting limits on screen time and spending more time on outdoor activities.

ToyBox was implemented in Belgium. Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain and Poland, and it was used by the World Health Organisation to promote healthy diets across Europe.

Professor Summerbell is currently greatly involved in evaluating the impact of the Toybox intervention in Malaysia. 

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