Social marketing approaches to nutrition and physical activity interventions in early care and education centres: a systematic review

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Social marketing is a promising planning approach for influencing voluntary lifestyle behaviours, but its application to nutrition and physical activity interventions in the early care and education setting remains unknown.


PubMed, ISI Web of Science, PsycInfo and the Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health were systematically searched to identify interventions targeting nutrition and/or physical activity behaviours of children enrolled in early care centres between 1994 and 2016. Content analysis methods were used to capture information reflecting eight social marketing benchmark criteria.


The review included 135 articles representing 77 interventions. Two interventions incorporated all eight benchmark criteria, but the majority included fewer than four. Each intervention included behaviour and methods mix criteria, and more than half identified audience segments. Only one-third of interventions incorporated customer orientation, theory, exchange and insight. Only six interventions addressed competing behaviours. We did not find statistical significance for the effectiveness of interventions on child-level diet, physical activity or anthropometric outcomes based on the number of benchmark criteria used.


This review highlights opportunities to apply social marketing to obesity prevention interventions in early care centres. Social marketing could be an important strategy for early childhood obesity prevention efforts, and future research investigations into its effects are warranted.

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