Objectives: Interventions targeting young children have the potential to reduce the risk of obesity across the life span. To improve the physical activity habits of children attending early childhood education and care (ECEC), strategies implemented at scale must be effective, as well as have high impact and be feasible. To prioritise strategies based on these considerations, this study aims to 1) conduct an overview of reviews to gather and synthesise systematic review evidence of interventions aimed to improve the physical activity status of children attending ECEC aged 0-6 years and 2) assess the impact and feasibility of strategies identified as effective (as found in aim 1).
Methods: The overview of reviews followed the methodological procedure as described by the Joanna Briggs Institute. Reviews were included if they examined the effectiveness of interventions in ECEC on preschool children’s physical activity. Five databases were searched. Data extraction and quality assessment was completed by one reviewer and checked by a second reviewer. Results were synthesised in tabular form. To assess impact and feasibility, health promotion practitioners scored effective strategies (as found in aim 1) against Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality criteria. Strategies were ranked according to scores to indicate ‘best buys’.
Results/findings: The search resulted in 14 reviews eligible for inclusion. All but one review were assessed as having moderate to high quality. Eight effective strategies for improving physical activity of children attending ECEC were identified. When assessed for feasibility and impact, educator training and implementation of a physical activity policy were ranked most highly.
Conclusions: Decision-makers should prioritise educator training and implementation of physical activity policies for investment for scaling-up, as these strategies are considered to be effective, have high impact and are feasible at a population level.