Community-based interventions have shown promise in reducing childhood overweight and obesity and associated risk factors. However, they have been critiqued for their typically linear intervention logic, sustainability and scalability. Participatory community-based systems approaches have been posited as a way of addressing these limitations by allowing community members to create their own systems maps reflecting their understanding of the drivers of a particular issue in their community; and consequently developing and resourcing their own strategies and actions to influence these factors in the context of existing systems. Applying this approach to childhood obesity is in its infancy.
To describe the process of a whole-of-community systems approach to childhood obesity prevention implemented in Victoria, Australia.
Systems dynamics and a collective impact framework heavily informed the design of this intervention. An innovative approach using software and group model building (GMB) was implemented in a community in western Victoria. Three GMB sessions were conducted in 2015 which included action and implementation planning.
The first two GMB sessions included 10-30 key community leaders who were considered influential in areas of the community where children were involved in eating and playing. A systems map was constructed. The third GMB included 160 members of the wider community who continued to build this map, and identified action areas. Actions for each area were developed and prioritised. Working groups were formed to implement the priority actions. Case studies of actions implemented in the community resultant of the GMBs and further community development and systems work will be presented. E.g. breastfeeding promotion, family day care beverage policy, reducing SSB consumption at the local sports club.
Understanding the process of implementing a new whole-of-community systems approach to childhood obesity prevention will provide knowledge to other communities how best to tackle childhood obesity.