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A systems approach to obesity prevention is increasingly urged. However, confusion exists on what a systems approach entails in practice, and the empirical evidence on this new approach is unclear. This scoping review aimed to identify and synthesise studies/programmes that have comprehensively applied a systems approach to obesity prevention in intervention development, delivery/implementation, and evaluation. By searching international databases and grey literature, only three studies (10 publications) met inclusion criteria, which might be explained partially by suboptimal reporting. No conclusion on the effectiveness of this approach can be drawn yet due to the limited evidence base. We identified common features shared by the included studies, such as measuring ongoing changes, in addition to endpoint outcomes, and supporting capacity building. Some facilitators and barriers to applying a comprehensive systems approach in practice were identified. More well-designed and reported studies are needed, especially from low- and middle-income countries.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Public Health

Publication Date





group model building, intervention development, intervention evaluation, intervention implementation, obesity prevention, system dynamics, systems approach, systems thinking, Humans, Capacity Building, Databases, Factual, Obesity, Systems Analysis