Chronic disease prevention interventions in children and young adults

Date: May 2017

Contributing authors:

  • Dr Hayley Christian
  • Dr Gina Trapp
  • Dr Karen Villanueva
  • Dr Terri Pikora


The purpose of this rapid review commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Health is to inform future population health policy directions. This review compiles the available evidence for prevention interventions at key age points and identifies evidence-based interventions shown to be successful in Australia or other comparable jurisdictions.

Key findings

Overall there is a lack of intervention research targeting poor nutrition, physical inactivity, unsafe use of alcohol and smoking in children and young adults. This makes it difficult to confidently recommend individual strategies to reduce the impact of these risk factors on young people’s current health and future risk of chronic health conditions.

However, this review found strong evidence that the greatest impact on reducing risk factors for chronic disease is likely to come from a multi-level, multi-strategy, multi-sector approach across the life course.

What works (strong evidence)

  • School-based interventions that address physical inactivity. Classroom-based physical activity interventions positively influence blood cholesterol, cardiorespiratory fitness and skinfold thickness among children and adolescents
  • School-based interventions preventing children and adolescents from starting to smoke and helping them to quit
  • Interventions conducted in multiple settings (e.g. schools, family and community) that target multiple health risk factors (e.g. nutrition education, physical activity promotion and discourage sedentary behaviours)
  • Nutrition interventions delivered across multiple settings (i.e. home and school)
  • Home- and family-based interventions for alcohol
  • Higher prices and alcohol taxes to reduce excessive alcohol consumption.