Digital interventions for universal health promotion in children and adolescents: A systematic review

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health; Women and Child Health


Background and objectives: Digital media has been used mostly to deliver clinical treatments and therapies; however limited evidence evaluates digital interventions for health promotion. The objective of this review is to identify digital interventions for universal health promotion in school-aged children and adolescents globally.
Methods: Eligible articles were searched in PubMed, Embase, Medline, Ovid SP, The Cochrane Library, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, WHO regional databases, Google Scholar, and reference lists from 2000 to March 2021. Randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies evaluating interventions that promote health in school-aged children and adolescents (5-19.9 years) were included. Methods were conducted in duplicate. Where possible, data were pooled with a random-effects model.
Results: Seventy-four studies were included (46 998 participants), of which 37 were meta-analyzed (19 312 participants). Interventions increased fruit and vegetable consumption (servings per day) (mean difference [MD] 0.63, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.21 to 1.04; studies = 6; P = .003; high quality of evidence), and probably reduced sedentary behavior (MD -19.62, 95% CI -36.60 to -2.65; studies = 6; P = .02; moderate quality of evidence), and body fat percentage (MD -0.35%, 95% CI -0.63 to -0.06; studies = 5; P = .02; low quality of evidence). The majority of studies were conducted in high-income countries and significant heterogeneity in design and methodology limit generalizability of results.
Conclusions: There is great potential in digital platforms for universal health promotion; however, more robust methods and study designs are necessitated. Continued research should assess factors that limit research and program implementation in low- to middle-income countries.


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