CLiterature Review

Publication Details

The committee reviewed and considered a broad array of information in its work on issues potentially involved in the prevention of obesity and overweight in children and youth. Information sources included the primary research literature in public health, medicine, allied health, psychology, sociology, education, and transportation; reports, position statements, and other resources (e.g., websites) from the federal government, state governments, professional organizations, health advocacy groups, trade organizations, and international health agencies; textbooks and other scientific reviews; federal and state legislation; and news articles.


In order to conduct a thorough review of the medical and scientific literature, the committee, Institute of Medicine (IOM) staff, and outside consultants conducted online bibliographic searches of relevant databases (Box C-1) that included Medline, AGRICOLA, CINAHL, Cochrane Database, EconLit, ERIC, PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts, EMBASE, TRIS, and LexisNexis. To begin the process of identifying the primary literature in this field, the IOM staff at the beginning of the study conducted general bibliographic searches on topics related to prevention interventions of obesity in children and youth. These references (approximately 1,000 citations) were categorized and annotated by the staff and reference lists of key citations were provided to the committee. After examining the initial search and identifying key indexing terms in each of the databases, a comprehensive search strategy was designed in consultation with librarians at the George E. Brown Jr. Library of the National Academies. Search terms incorporated relevant MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) terms as well as terms from the EMBASE thesaurus. To maximize retrieval, the search strategy incorporated synonymous terms on the topics of obesity, overweight, or body weight; dietary patterns (including breastfeeding); and physical activity (including exercise, recreation, physical fitness, or physical education and training). The searches were limited to English language and targeted to retrieve citations related to infants, children, or youth (less than 18 years of age). The searches were not limited by date of publication. This broad search resulted in over 40,000 citations. Subsequent analysis of the resulting database focused on resources published since 1994 (approximately 19,000 citations).

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Online Databases. AGRICOLA is a bibliographic database of citations to the agricultural literature. Production of these records in electronic form began in 1970, but the database covers materials in all formats, including printed works from the 15th century. (more...)

As the study progressed, additional focused searches were conducted. Topics of these searches included prevention of obesity in adults (primarily meta-analyses and reviews); prevention interventions focused on co-morbidities of obesity in children (i.e., diabetes, hypertension); behaviorally focused interventions; and statistical information on trends in obesity and physical activity. Additional references were identified by reviewing the reference lists found in major review articles, key reports, prominent websites, and relevant textbooks. Committee members, workshop presenters, consultants, and IOM staff also supplied references.

The committee maintained the reference list in a searchable database that was indexed to allow searches by keywords, staff annotations, type of literature (e.g., literature review), or other criteria. Additionally, an Internet-based site was developed to facilitate the committee's access to subject bibliographies that were developed from the search as well as to full text of some of the key resources. After indexing the citations, subject bibliographies were developed for the committee on topics including definition and measurement of childhood obesity and overweight; correlates and determinants (breastfeeding, dietary patterns, physical activity, television viewing, etc.); economic issues; etiology/epidemiology; ethnology and disparities; prevention interventions (family-based, school-based, community-based, etc.); and prevalence. Bibliographies were updated throughout the study and committee members requested the full text of journal articles and other resources as needed for their information and analysis.