Summary of the methods used to develop this guideline

Key questions

The key questions were established as part of the scope for this guideline. They formed the starting point for the reviews of evidence and were used by the PHAC to help develop the recommendations. The overarching questions were:

Question 1: What individually modifiable behaviours may help children and young people to maintain a healthy weight or prevent excess weight gain?

Question 2: What individually modifiable behaviours may help adults to maintain a healthy weight or prevent excess weight gain?

Question 3: What are the most effective ways to communicate information to children, young people and adults about individually modifiable behaviours to help maintain a healthy weight or prevent excess weight gain?

These questions were made more specific for each review.

Reviewing the evidence

Effectiveness review

One review of effectiveness was conducted: Review 1: An evidence review of modifiable diet and physical activity components and associated behaviours.

Identifying the evidence

Several databases were searched in November 2013 for systematic reviews from 2005. See review 1.

Key websites were also searched for reports produced by governments, academics and industry. In addition, several databases were searched for primary studies where gaps in the evidence had been identified by systematic reviews.

Selection criteria

Studies were included in the effectiveness review if:

  • they were high quality systematic reviews

  • they were undertaken among a general population

  • they considered the association between an individually modifiable behaviour and the maintenance of a healthy weight or the prevention of weight gain

  • they were published in English

  • they were primary studies that considered the association between a particular factor (meal planning, holiday weight gain and standing) and the maintenance of a healthy weight or the prevention of weight gain.

Because of the number of reviews meeting the inclusion criteria, reviews were prioritised for full consideration in the final evidence review based on the quality of the review, the publication date, the ability to address the factors being considered and the ability to add nuance to existing recommendations.

Studies were excluded if:

  • the interventions were undertaken in a particular setting

  • they focused only on people who were overweight or obese with an associated medical condition

  • they were non-systematic reviews.

See each review for details of the inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Other reviews

One review of qualitative evidence was conducted: Review 2: Qualitative evidence review of the most acceptable ways to communicate information about individually modifiable behaviours to help maintain a healthy weight or prevent excess weight gain.

Identifying the evidence

Several databases were searched in February 2014 for qualitative evidence published after 2000. See review 2.

Selection criteria

Studies were included in the review if:

  • they were primary UK-based qualitative studies

  • they were systematic reviews of qualitative studies (UK or non-UK)

  • they were full text articles published in English after the year 2000.

Studies were excluded if:

  • they did not address the questions outlined in the scope

  • they addressed the treatment of obesity or management of medical conditions related to weight status.

Quality appraisal

Included systematic reviews were assessed for methodological rigour and quality using the NICE systematic review checklist and the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) systematic review quality checklist. Primary studies were assessed using the appropriate NICE checklist, as set out in Methods for the development of NICE public health guidance. Each study was graded (++, +, −) to reflect the risk of potential bias arising from its design and execution.

Study quality

++ All or most of the checklist criteria have been fulfilled. Where they have not been fulfilled, the conclusions are very unlikely to alter.

+ Some of the checklist criteria have been fulfilled. Those criteria that have not been fulfilled or not adequately described are unlikely to alter the conclusions.

− Few or no checklist criteria have been fulfilled. The conclusions of the study are likely or very likely to alter.

The evidence was also assessed for its applicability to the areas (populations, settings, interventions) covered by the scope of the guideline. Each evidence statement concludes with a statement of applicability (directly applicable, partially applicable, not applicable).

Summarising the evidence and making evidence statements

The review data were summarised in evidence tables (see the evidence reviews for this guideline).

The findings from the evidence review were synthesised and used as the basis for a number of evidence statements relating to each key question. The evidence statements were prepared by the external contractors (see the evidence statements for this guideline). The statements reflect their judgement of the strength (quality, quantity and consistency) of evidence and its applicability to the populations and settings in the scope.

Cost effectiveness

NICE prepared a document on cost effectiveness considerations from a population modelling viewpoint instead of a review of economic evaluations and a modelling report. A modelling report was not considered necessary because the cost effectiveness of brief advice can be inferred from the estimates of cost effectiveness from previous modelling exercises on healthy weight, weight gain, overweight and obesity carried out for NICE in recent years.

How the PHAC formulated the recommendations

At its meetings in April and June 2014, the Public Health Advisory Committee (PHAC) considered the evidence, expert reports and cost effectiveness to determine:

  • whether there was sufficient evidence (in terms of strength and applicability) to form a judgement

  • if relevant, whether (on balance) the evidence demonstrates that the intervention, programme or activity can be effective or is inconclusive

  • if relevant, the typical size of effect

  • whether the evidence is applicable to the target groups and context covered by the guideline.

The PHAC developed recommendations through informal consensus, based on the following criteria:

  • Strength (type, quality, quantity and consistency) of the evidence.

  • The applicability of the evidence to the populations/settings referred to in the scope.

  • Effect size and potential impact on the target population's health.

  • Impact on inequalities in health between different groups of the population.

  • Equality and diversity legislation.

  • Ethical issues and social value judgements.

  • Cost effectiveness (for the NHS and other public sector organisations).

  • Balance of harms and benefits.

  • Ease of implementation and any anticipated changes in practice.

If evidence was lacking, the PHAC also considered whether a recommendation should only be implemented as part of a research programme.

If possible, recommendations were linked to evidence statements (see the evidence section for details). Where a recommendation was inferred from the evidence, this was indicated by the reference 'IDE' (inference derived from the evidence).