Childhood obesity has been recognized as a priority in the WHO’s Global 2013-2020 Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non Communicable Disease and recommendations have been provided to countries on ending childhood obesity.

One of the clear messages from previously successful trials is that building community capacity to apply systems thinking is critical. Systems thinking is characterized by attempts to identify the most important cause and effect relationships within a specific system boundary that create feedback and so amplify or stabilise change across a system.

Our research program focuses on:

  • Building the evidence on the effectiveness of systems approaches to community-based obesity prevention
  • Building the capacity of communities to use systems thinking in prevention to promote sustainability of change
  • Creating new and innovative methods and tools for implementation and evaluation of systems approaches to community-based interventions
  • Developing reproducible processes that can be used at scale
  • Using existing systems science methods (Agent Based modelling, Systems Dynamics, Social Network Analysis and Causal Loop Diagrams) in novel applications to public health prevention

A selection of our current projects include:

  • Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Policy Research on Obesity and Food Systems (2012–2017): this NHMRC-funded project includes the economic evaluation of 40 obesity prevention interventions across a range of sectors including food, trade, physical activity and urban design.
  • WHO STOPS Childhood Obesity NHMRC Partnership Project (APP1114118; 2015-2020): Whole of Systems Trial of Prevention Strategies for childhood obesity in 11 communities the Great South Coast region of Victoria.
  • Yarriambiack Creating Healthy Active Nourished Generations (YCHANGe) (2015-2017)
  • COMPACT (Childhood Obesity Modelling for Prevention and Community Transformation): this project is funded by the NIH and involves collaborations across Deakin University, Harvard University, Tufts University, The University of Washington (St Louis), Brooking institute and the University of Auckland. COMPACT is investigating the diffusion of community-based childhood obesity prevention interventions in Australia and the USA retrospectively and prospectively and explaining this process through Agent Based Modelling.