Background Maternal obesity is a growing public health issue. It is associated with pregnancy and birth complications and increased risk for childhood and long-term obesity. Interventions focusing on individual behaviour change have had a modest impact on clinical outcomes. There is increasing evidence that social networks are an important driver of obesity-related behaviours. The aim of this systematic review is to explore the effectiveness of lifestyle interventions that use social networks for weight management and to explore participants’ experiences, and the process outcomes of these interventions.
Methods MEDLINE, PsychINFO, EMBASE, Cochrane, CENTRAL and CINAHL databases were searched as well as reference lists of included studies. Eligibility criteria included: intervention studies with a comparator group and qualitative studies/process evaluations of the included intervention studies; pregnant or postnatal women (<2 years) with BMI >25 kg/m2; a lifestyle intervention with a social network component; and a gestational or postpartum weight outcome. Protocol papers were included to aid extraction of intervention components and behaviour change techniques (BCTs). Articles were screened by two independent reviewers. Data extraction is ongoing and studies will be assessed for quality and risk of bias. BCTs and social network functions are also being coded by two reviewers and will be summarised in tables. We will assess heterogeneity and, if possible, a random-effects meta-analysis and a priori specified subgroup analyses will be conducted. We will carry out a narrative synthesis.
Results A total of 10 211 records were identified from databases with 73 full-text articles and another 25 identified from references screened. 30 articles (15 studies) were included. 8 potentially relevant studies are ongoing or results have not yet been published. Searches will be rerun before the final analyses. Preliminary findings are that the interventions are heterogeneous but most were group-based and delivered face-to-face. Interventions often advised on obtaining social support from existing social network (e.g. family), arranged support through created social networks (e.g. group of mothers) and a few directly involved the participants’ partner in the intervention. None used social network data to accelerate behaviour change among participants.
Conclusion Interventions often include social support from existing or created social networks as a BCT. There is a lack of interventions that purposefully utilise social network data. More qualitative research with participants and process evaluations are required. The findings of this review will be used to inform the development of a weight management intervention that mobilises social networks for behaviour change.
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