Can uptake of public health interventions be improved by including grey literature in the evidence-base?
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Interventions to prevent obesity are not working. Despite the substantial efforts of a multiplicity of interventions and strategies from the public health sector, by 2025 Australian adult obesity rates are predicted to rise by 65%. There is little doubt that increased physical activity/decreased sedentary behaviour combined with dietary intervention produces an outcome of reduced BMI: this is the science of weight loss and not in dispute, though a profusion of RCTs continue to be conducted along similar lines and academic journals continue to publish them. Policy in this area abounds but practical long-term successes remain elusive. What is often missing from the debate is acknowledgement and understanding of the public’s resistance to uptake of obesity prevention interventions. This crucial information can be gleaned from the grey literature. To be genuinely evidence-informed, policy needs to access the broadest literature base and include both published and unpublished sources. Grey literature includes surveys, public opinion, crowdsourcing, social media, theses and conference papers, issues and working papers, technical reports, unpublished studies and projects, newspapers and blogs. It is vital to consider these sources in the evidence-base to balance the science of obesity. Grey literature is where societal attitudes, beliefs, values and opinions might be reasonably expected to be found, and also where pilot programs and case studies assessing the feasibility of public health interventions will have been reported. The degree to which this literature has been accessed and incorporated into the evidence that informs policy arguably has an impact on the ultimate success or sustained “take-up” of an intervention.