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

C. T. Luecking, H. Hennink-Kaminski, C. Ihekweazu, A. Vaughn, S. Mazzucca, D. S. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Introduction: 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. Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusion: 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1425-1438
Number of pages14
JournalObesity Reviews
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by funding provided from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (R01HL120969, attributed to the last author). This study was conducted out of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), which is a Prevention Research Center funded through a Cooperative Agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U48-DP005017). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The sponsor had no role in the study design, collection, analysis, or interpretation of the data; writing of the article; or decision to publish this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 World Obesity Federation


  • early care and education
  • obesity prevention interventions
  • social marketing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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