Limiting Television to Reduce Childhood Obesity: Cost-Effectiveness of Five Population Strategies

A CHOICES study finds that strategies to reduce television exposure could reduce childhood obesity at a relatively low cost.

Limiting Television to Reduce Childhood Obesity: Cost-Effectiveness of Five Population Strategies.
Kenney EL, Mozaffarian RS, Long MW, Barrett JL, Cradock AL, Giles CM, Ward ZJ, Gortmaker SL. Child Obes. 2021 May 10. doi: 10.1089/chi.2021.0016. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33970695.
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To quantify the potential population-wide costs, number of individuals reached, and impact on obesity of five effective interventions to reduce children’s television viewing if implemented nationally.

Study Design
Utilizing evidence from systematic reviews, the Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost Effectiveness Study (CHOICES) microsimulation model estimated the cost, population reach, and impact on childhood obesity from 2020 to 2030 of five hypothetical policy strategies to reduce the negative impact of children’s TV exposure: (1) eliminating the tax deductibility of food and beverage advertising; (2) targeting TV reduction during home visiting programs; (3) motivational interviewing to reduce home television time at Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) clinic visits; (4) adoption of a television-reduction curriculum in child care; and (5) limiting noneducational television in licensed child care settings.

Eliminating the tax deductibility of food advertising could reach the most children [106 million, 95% uncertainty interval (UI): 105–107 million], prevent the most cases of obesity (78,700, 95% UI: 30,200–130,000), and save more in health care costs than it costs to implement. Strategies targeting young children in child care and WIC also cost little to implement (between $0.19 and $32.73 per child reached), and, although reaching fewer children because of the restricted age range, were estimated to prevent between 25,500 (95% UI: 4600–59,300) and 35,400 (95% UI: 13,200–62,100) cases of obesity. Home visiting to reduce television viewing had high costs and a low reach.

Interventions to reduce television exposure across a range of settings, if implemented widely, could help prevent childhood obesity in the population at relatively low cost.