Population Approaches to Improve Diet, Physical Activity, and Smoking Habits

A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association

Poor lifestyle behaviors, including suboptimal diet, physical inactivity, and tobacco use, are leading causes of preventable diseases globally. Although even modest population shifts in risk substantially alter health outcomes, the optimal population-level approaches to improve lifestyle are not well established.

  • In this paper, the authors systematically reviewed and graded the current scientific evidence for effective population approaches to improve dietary habits, increase physical activity, and reduce tobacco use.
  • Strategies were considered in 6 broad domains: (1) Media and educational campaigns; (2) labeling and consumer information; (3) taxation, subsidies, and other economic incentives; (4) school and workplace approaches; (5) local environmental changes; and (6) direct restrictions and mandates. The writing group also reviewed the potential contributions of healthcare systems and surveillance systems to behavior change efforts.
  • Several specific population interventions were identified, providing a set of specific evidence-based strategies that deserve close attention and prioritization for wider implementation. School-related interventions included increased availability and types of school playground spaces and equipment, increased number of PE classes, and revised PE curricula to increase time in at least moderate activity.
  • This systematic review identified and graded the evidence for a range of population-based strategies to promote lifestyle change. The findings provide a framework for policy makers, advocacy groups, researchers, clinicians, communities, and other stakeholders to understand and implement the most effective approaches. New strategic initiatives and partnerships are needed to translate this evidence into action.

Mozaffarian, D., A. Afshin, et al. (2012). Population Approaches to Improve Diet, Physical Activity, and Smoking Habits A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation 126(12):1514-1563.

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