Community wide interventions for increasing physical activity

Baker, Philip RA, Francis, Daniel P, Soares, Jesus, Weightman, Alison L, & Foster, Charles (2015) Community wide interventions for increasing physical activity. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 1, Art. No.: CD008366.

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Multi-strategic community wide interventions for physical activity are increasingly popular but their ability to achieve population level improvements is unknown.


To evaluate the effects of community wide, multi-strategic interventions upon population levels of physical activity.

Search methods

We searched the Cochrane Public Health Group Segment of the Cochrane Register of Studies,The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, MEDLINE in Process, EMBASE, CINAHL, LILACS, PsycINFO, ASSIA, the British Nursing Index, Chinese CNKI databases, EPPI Centre (DoPHER, TRoPHI), ERIC, HMIC, Sociological Abstracts, SPORTDiscus, Transport Database and Web of Science (Science Citation Index, Social Sciences Citation Index, Conference Proceedings Citation Index). We also scanned websites of the EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health;; the International Union for Health Promotion and Education; the NIHR Coordinating Centre for Health Technology (NCCHTA); the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NICE and SIGN guidelines. Reference lists of all relevant systematic reviews, guidelines and primary studies were searched and we contacted experts in the field. The searches were updated to 16 January 2014, unrestricted by language or publication status.

Selection criteria

Cluster randomised controlled trials, randomised controlled trials, quasi-experimental designs which used a control population for comparison, interrupted time-series studies, and prospective controlled cohort studies were included. Only studies with a minimum six-month follow up from the start of the intervention to measurement of outcomes were included. Community wide interventions had to comprise at least two broad strategies aimed at physical activity for the whole population. Studies which randomised individuals from the same community were excluded.

Data collection and analysis

At least two review authors independently extracted the data and assessed the risk of bias. Each study was assessed for the setting, the number of included components and their intensity. The primary outcome measures were grouped according to whether they were dichotomous (per cent physically active, per cent physically active during leisure time, and per cent physically inactive) or continuous (leisure time physical activity time (time spent)), walking (time spent), energy expenditure (as metabolic equivalents or METS)). For dichotomous measures we calculated the unadjusted and adjusted risk difference, and the unadjusted and adjusted relative risk. For continuous measures we calculated percentage change from baseline, unadjusted and adjusted.

Main results

After the selection process had been completed, 33 studies were included. A total of 267 communities were included in the review (populations between 500 and 1.9 million). Of the included studies, 25 were set in high income countries and eight were in low income countries. The interventions varied by the number of strategies included and their intensity. Almost all of the interventions included a component of building partnerships with local governments or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (29 studies). None of the studies provided results by socio-economic disadvantage or other markers of equity. However, of those included studies undertaken in high income countries, 14 studies were described as being provided to deprived, disadvantaged or low socio-economic communities. Nineteen studies were identified as having a high risk of bias, 10 studies were unclear, and four studies had a low risk of bias. Selection bias was a major concern with these studies, with only five studies using randomisation to allocate communities. Four studies were judged as being at low risk of selection bias although 19 studies were considered to have an unclear risk of bias. Twelve studies had a high risk of detection bias, 13 an unclear risk and four a low risk of bias. Generally, the better designed studies showed no improvement in the primary outcome measure of physical activity at a population level.

All four of the newly included, and judged to be at low risk of bias, studies (conducted in Japan, United Kingdom and USA) used randomisation to allocate the intervention to the communities. Three studies used a cluster randomised design and one study used a stepped wedge design. The approach to measuring the primary outcome of physical activity was better in these four studies than in many of the earlier studies. One study obtained objective population representative measurements of physical activity by accelerometers, while the remaining three low-risk studies used validated self-reported measures. The study using accelerometry, conducted in low income, high crime communities of USA, emphasised social marketing, partnership with police and environmental improvements. No change in the seven-day average daily minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity was observed during the two years of operation. Some program level effect was observed with more people walking in the intervention community, however this result was not evident in the whole community. Similarly, the two studies conducted in the United Kingdom (one in rural villages and the other in urban London; both using communication, partnership and environmental strategies) found no improvement in the mean levels of energy expenditure per person per week, measured from one to four years from baseline. None of the three low risk studies reporting a dichotomous outcome of physical activity found improvements associated with the intervention.

Overall, there was a noticeable absence of reporting of benefit in physical activity for community wide interventions in the included studies. However, as a group, the interventions undertaken in China appeared to have the greatest possibility of success with high participation rates reported. Reporting bias was evident with two studies failing to report physical activity measured at follow up. No adverse events were reported.The data pertaining to cost and sustainability of the interventions were limited and varied.

Authors' conclusions

Although numerous studies have been undertaken, there is a noticeable inconsistency of the findings in the available studies and this is confounded by serious methodological issues within the included studies. The body of evidence in this review does not support the hypothesis that the multi-component community wide interventions studied effectively increased physical activity for the population, although some studies with environmental components observed more people walking.

Plain language summary

Community wide interventions for increasing physical activity

Not having enough physical activity leads to poorer health. Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of chronic disease and improve one's health and wellbeing. The lack of physical activity is a common and in some cases a growing health problem. To address this, 33 studies have used improvement activities directed at communities, using more than one approach in a single program. When we first looked at the available research in 2011 we observed that there was a lack of good studies which could show whether this approach was beneficial or not. Some studies claimed that community wide programs improved physical activities and other studies did not. In this update we found four new studies that were of good quality; however none of these four studies increased physical activity levels for the population. Some studies reported program level effects such as observing more people walking, however the population level of physical activity had not increased. This review found that community wide interventions are very difficult to undertake, and it appears that they usually fail to provide a measurable benefit in physical activity for a population. It is apparent that many of the interventions failed to reach a substantial portion of the community, and we speculate that some single strategies included in the combination may lack individual effectiveness.

Laički sažetak

Intervencije u zajednici za povećanje tjelesne aktivnosti

Nedostatna tjelesna aktivnost povezana je s lošijim zdravljem.Redovita tjelesna aktivnost može umanjiti rizik od kroničnih bolesti te poboljšati zdravlje i kvalitetu života pojedinca.Manjak tjelesne aktivnosti čest je problem, a učestalost tog problema se povećava.Cochrane sustavni pregled je analizirao 33 studije koje su istražile programe za povećanje tjelesne aktivnosti u zajednici, u kojima se koristilo više od jednog pristupa.Kad su prvi put pregledani dokazi iz istraživanja koja su bila dostupna 2011. godine, utvrđeno je da nema dovoljno dobrih studija koje bi mogle pokazati je li takav pristup koristan ili ne.Primjerice, neke studije tvrde da programi za povećanje tjelesne aktivnosti u zajednici poboljšavaju tjelesnu aktivnost pojedinaca u zajednici, a druge studije tvrde suprotno.U ovom obnovljenom sustavnom pregledu pronađene su 4 nove studije koje su bile visoke kvalitete, ail nijedna od tih studija nije pokazala da je istraživana intervencija dovela do povećanja tjelesne aktivnosti u zajednici.Neke su studije opisale učinak na način da je opisano da je uočeno da više ljudi u zajednici hoda, međutim, ukupna razina tjelesne aktivnosti u promatranoj populaciji nije se povećala.Ovaj sustavni pregled je utvrdio da je intervencije za povećanje tjelesne aktivnosti u zajednici teško provesti i čini se da one obično ne uspijevaju u svojoj namjeri da na mjerljiv način povećaju tjelesnu aktivnost u populaciji.Čini se da mnoge intervencije nisu uspjele doseći veći broj stanovnika u zajednici pa se može smatrati da neke od strategija uključene u analizirane kombinacije nisu zasebno učinkovite.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 80012
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Physical activity, community wide, health promotion, mass media, systematic review
DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008366.pub3
ISSN: 1469-493X
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > HUMAN MOVEMENT AND SPORTS SCIENCE (110600) > Sports Medicine (110604)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Epidemiology (111706)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Health Promotion (111712)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Preventive Medicine (111716)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > OTHER BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (129900) > Built Environment and Design not elsewhere classified (129999)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 The Cochrane Collaboration
Copyright Statement: This review is published as a Cochrane Review in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 1. Cochrane Reviews are regularly updated as new evidence emerges and in response to comments and criticisms, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews should be consulted for the most recent version of the Review.
Deposited On: 13 Jan 2015 06:14
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2016 01:39

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