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PICOT Question for Preventing Childhood Obesity

Tahimi Salfran Mesa

Florida National University

Professor: Yesenia Osle

September 15, 2023

PICOT Question for Preventing Childhood Obesity

Obesity is a pressing public health issue with serious long-term consequences. Obesity is a chronic medical condition characterized by excessive body fat. A body mass index (BMI) of 25 or above is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese (WHO, 2021). Obesity has witnessed a global upswing, with a particularly alarming impact on children, sparking significant public health apprehension. Childhood obesity has become a pressing global concern, transcending the confines of adulthood. The alarming trend exposes children to immediate obesity-related health risks and casts a shadow over their future. Children are categorized as overweight or obese based on their BMI exceeding age and gender-specific thresholds. Precise height and weight assessments form a crucial aspect of routine physical examinations. Childhood obesity sets the stage for a lifelong battle, predisposing youngsters to adult obesity and a spectrum of non-communicable diseases like diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and osteoarthritis in adulthood.

Childhood obesity is driven by complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors. Genetic predisposition increases child's susceptibility to obesity. Environmental factors entail easy access to high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, and sedentary lifestyles influenced by modern technology and urbanization (Lister et al., 2023). Lower-income families may have limited access to fresh, nutritious foods and safe places for physical activity. Advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages targeted at children further exacerbates the problem. Behavioral factors are the psychological factors driving stress and emotional eating that hinder healthy habits. Addressing this burgeoning crisis demands urgent, comprehensive action to safeguard the well-being of our youngest generation and mitigate the far-reaching health consequences they face in adulthood. This paper explores the problem of obesity and identifies effective prevention strategies are essential to mitigate the growing concern using the PICOT framework.

Problem Statement

Childhood obesity rates have been steadily increasing worldwide. The global prevalence of overweight and obese children has risen dramatically in recent years. The World Health Organization (2021) reports that in 2020, 39 million children under five were overweight or obese. Over the past four decades, the global count of school-age children and adolescents grappling with obesity has skyrocketed by over tenfold, surging from 11 million to a staggering 124 million by 2016. Additional 216 million fell into the category of being overweight but not yet classified as obese in 2016. The numbers are projected to substantially increase by 2030.

The primary driver of obesity and overweight issues worldwide stems from a crucial energy imbalance: consuming calories exceeding those expended. The global challenge is exacerbated by an alarming surge in the consumption of energy-dense foods rich in fats and sugars and rise in physical inactivity (Fox et al., 2019). The latter can be attributed to the increasingly sedentary nature of many job roles, shifts in transportation methods, and the expanding urban landscape. These dietary habits and activity levels shifts often result from broader environmental and societal changes linked to development.

Childhood obesity elevates the risk of numerous health issues, encompassing asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and precursors to heart disease like high blood pressure. It also exerts substantial impact on healthcare costs. In adulthood, individuals grappling with obesity face increased susceptibility to stroke, various cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, premature mortality, and mental health conditions such as clinical depression and anxiety. Therefore, childhood obesity carried over to adulthood will expose them to these problems. The problem affects both developed and developing nations. However, gender disparities are relatively minimal. Addressing the escalating obesity epidemic necessitates a comprehensive approach considering genetic predispositions and environments that encourage unhealthy behaviors. However, identifying the most effective strategies and interventions for specific populations is crucial.

PICOT Question

In school-aged children (P), does a comprehensive school-based nutrition and physical activity program (I) compared pharmacological interventions (C) reduce prevalence of obesity over 12-month period?

Explanation of PICOT Components

Population of Interest (P)

The population of interest for this PICOT question is school-aged children, typically ranging from 5 to 18 years old. The age group is particularly susceptible to obesity due to dietary habits, physical activity levels, and environmental influences. Childhood often emerges as a pivotal phase in development. It is increasingly acknowledged as a critical period influencing an individual's susceptibility to obesity in later life (Smith et al., 2020). During this window, taste preferences, dietary patterns, and lifestyle behaviors take shape and have a lasting impact. Interventions implemented during these early years possess the potential to redirect this trajectory, reshaping a child's preferences and habits before they solidify, offering a vital opportunity to mitigate the risk of obesity in the future.

Intervention of Interest (I)

The intervention of interest is a comprehensive school-based nutrition, behavioral therapy, and physical activity program. School-based nutrition interventions are strategies enacted within school environments to cultivate positive nutritional attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors in school-aged children and adolescents (O’Brien et al., 2021). These initiatives encompass various facets, including food policies, environmental enhancements, and nutrition education. Their recipients may range from school administrators, food service personnel, and teachers to parents and students. Conventional classroom educators or specialized program instructors can carry out implementation.

Physical activities are bodily engagements that require energy expenditure. They encompass exercises, sports, recreational pursuits, and daily tasks like walking or climbing stairs. Encouraging regular exercise helps children achieve and maintain a healthy weight while promoting overall well-being. Activities should be age-appropriate, enjoyable, and integrated into daily life. School-aged children and adolescents should engage in minimum of 60 minutes of daily physical activity, with at least 30 minutes devoted to structured activities like sports and supervised exercises, aligning with recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (van Sluijs et al., 2021). Behavioral therapy focuses on modifying unhealthy behaviors and promoting positive lifestyle changes. It encourages self-monitoring, where children track their eating habits, physical activity, and food-related emotions. Second, the education encourages setting specific, achievable goals for healthier eating and increased physical activity tailored to their age and abilities.

Comparison of Interest (C)

The comparison of interest in this PICOT question is pharmacological intervention. Pharmacological intervention encompasses using pharmaceutical agents or drugs to manage obesity in children. These interventions include prescription medications like orlistat for reducing fat absorption in the digestive tract or metformin to regulate blood sugar levels and treat obesity-related insulin resistance (Florencia et al., 2022). Other weight management medications may also be considered, although their use in pediatric populations is generally more limited and carefully monitored due to potential side effects. Comparing the effectiveness of these pharmacological interventions with comprehensive school-based nutrition and physical activity programs is essential to determine the most appropriate and beneficial approach to address childhood obesity.

Outcome of Interest (O)

The primary outcome of interest is the body mass index (BMI) percentile reduction. BMI percentile is a commonly used metric to assess and monitor children's weight status. Decrease in BMI percentile indicates positive change in weight status and reflect progress in preventing childhood obesity.

Timeframe (T)

The proposed timeframe for implementing and evaluating the comprehensive school-based program's impact on BMI percentile is 12 months. The duration ensures comprehensive assessment of intervention's effectiveness over reasonable period.


Childhood obesity is a growing public health concern with far-reaching consequences. It stems from energy imbalance and has intensified due to increased consumption of energy-dense foods and reduced physical activity, driven by societal changes. Childhood obesity exposes children to immediate health risks and sets foundation fo lifelong battle with obesity-related diseases in adulthood. Interventions for combating childhood obesity should consider the complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors. Addressing childhood obesity requires comprehensive strategies illustrated through the PICOT framework. The outlined PICOT question focuses on school-aged children and impact of comprehensive school-based nutrition and physical activity program on BMI percentile reduction over 12 months. The question is designed to guide research and evaluation efforts in determining effectiveness of such interventions in preventing childhood obesity. Comparing the approach with pharmacological interventions is critical in determining appropriate effective path forward.


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