Deakin University

File(s) under permanent embargo

Adoption, implementation, and sustainability of early childhood feeding, nutrition and active play interventions in real-world settings: a systematic review

journal contribution
posted on 2023-04-05, 04:54 authored by R Gelman, Jill WhelanJill Whelan, S Spiteri, D Duric, W Oakhill, S Cassar, Penny LovePenny Love
Background: Instilling healthy dietary habits and active play in early childhood is an important public health focus. Interventions supporting the establishment of nutrition and active play behaviours in the first years of life have shown positive outcomes and long-term cost-effectiveness, however, most are research trials, with limited evidence regarding real-world application. Implementation science theories, models and frameworks (TMFs) can guide the process of research translation from trial to real-world intervention. The application of TMFs within nutrition and active play intervention studies in early childhood (< 5 years) is currently unknown. This systematic review identified the use of TMFs and barriers/ enablers associated with intervention adoption, implementation, and sustainability in early childhood nutrition and active play interventions implemented under real-world conditions. Methods: Six databases were searched for peer-reviewed publications between 2000–2021. Studies were included if primary outcomes reported improvement in diet, physical activity or sedentary behaviours amongst children aged < 5 years and interventions were delivered under real-world conditions within a community and/or healthcare setting. Two reviewers extracted and evaluated studies, cross checked by a third and verified by all authors. Quality assessment of included studies was completed by two authors using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT). Results: Eleven studies comprising eleven unique interventions were included. Studies represented low, middle and high-income countries, and were conducted across a range of settings. Five TMFs were identified representing four of Nilsen’s implementation model categories, predominantly ‘evaluation models’. Ninety-nine barriers/facilitators were extracted across the three intervention phases—Implementation (n = 33 barriers; 33 facilitators), Sustainability (n = 19 barriers; n = 9 facilitators), Adoption (n = 2 barriers; n = 3 facilitators). Identified barriers/facilitators were mapped to the five domains of the Durlak and DuPre framework, with ‘funding’, ‘compatibility’ and ‘integration of new programming’ common across the three intervention phases. Conclusions: Findings demonstrate that there is no systematic application of TMFs in the planning, implementation and/or evaluation of early childhood nutrition and active play interventions in real-world settings, and selective and sporadic application of TMFs occurs across the intervention lifespan. This apparent limited uptake of TMFs is a missed opportunity to enhance real-world implementation success. Trial registration: PROSPERO (CRD42021243841).



International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity



Article number















Springer Science and Business Media LLC