How are health, nutrition, and physical activity discussed in international guidelines and standards for children in care? A narrative review

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BACKGROUND: Children in care (CiC) have often experienced trauma and, as a result, are at high risk for poor health outcomes. It is imperative that human-service stakeholders provide trauma-informed health services and interventions. However, little is known about how health promotion is addressed in the standards and guidelines for CiC. For this scoping review, the aim was to examine and compare how nutrition and physical activity are discussed in: 1) federal standards for CiC across the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia; and 2) state and territory guidance in Australia. METHOD: The grey literature was searched for documents outlining key child-welfare standards, guidelines, or policies for the provision of care across foster, kinship, or residential care. Documents were examined for the inclusion of recommendations and/or strategies focused on primary health and the promotion of nutrition and/or physical activity. RESULTS: A total of 52 documents were included in this review: 28 outlining international federal guidance and 24 Australian documents. In the United States, New Zealand, and Australia, references to physical activity were often broad, with minimal direction, and nutrition was often neglected; the United Kingdom provided more detailed guidance to promote nutrition and physical activity among CiC. CONCLUSION: There is a lack of consistency and specificity in guidelines supporting healthy lifestyle interventions for CiC both internationally and within Australia. It is recommended that 1) specific trauma-informed health promotion guidelines are developed for CiC; and 2) trauma-informed health promotion training is provided to carers. Doing so will ensure that care is provided in a manner in which stakeholders recognize the signs and consequences of trauma in order to determine the most appropriate health interventions to improve outcomes and prevent ongoing trauma for this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)919-930
Number of pages12
JournalNutrition Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • children in care
  • health promotion
  • nutrition
  • physical activity

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