Objective To provide an overview of methodological issues in the design, delivery and evaluation of childhood obesity prevention programmes. Design Review of existing literature. Setting International. Results Interventions have varied considerably with regard to their design, subject selection criteria, sample size, attrition rates, intervention components and duration of both the intervention and the follow-up phases. However, overall, there is only a limited body of consistent, high-quality evidence on which valid and generalisable conclusions can be drawn about best practices for the prevention of childhood obesity. Conclusions Although the rationale for targeting children and adolescents through primary prevention is now compelling, effective obesity prevention remains elusive. There is increasing consensus that prevention of childhood obesity necessitates multifaceted health promotion interventions based on population health principles. By definition, such interventions should have a range of outcome indicators of effectiveness, generalisability and sustainability, not just the traditional ones focused on individual lifestyle behaviour change. Given the complexity and intricacy of population-based intervention programmes, multiple methods of data collection which combine both qualitative and quantitative approaches will need to be fully exploited in order to move towards evidence-based practice in the future.