The 'Practice Entrepreneur' - An Australian case study of a systems thinking inspired health promotion initiative

Andrew Joyce, Celia Green, Gemma Carey, Eleanor Malbon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    The potential of systems science concepts to inform approaches for addressing complex public health problems, such as obesity prevention, has been attracting significant attention over the last decade. Despite its recent popularity, there are very few studies examining the application of systems science concepts, termed systems thinking, in practice and whether (if at all) it influences the implementation of health promotion in real world settings and in what ways. Healthy Together Victoria (HTV) was based on a systems thinking approach to address obesity prevention alongside other chronic health problems and was implemented across 14 local government areas. This paper examines the experience of practitioners from one of those intervention sites. In-depth interviews with eight practitioners revealed that there was a rigidity with which they had experienced previous health promotion jobs relative to the flexibility and fluidity of HTV. While the health promotion literature does not indicate that health promotion should be overly prescriptive, the experience of these practitioners suggests it is being applied as such in real world settings. Within HTV, asking people to work with 'systems thinking', without giving a prescription about what systems thinking is, enabled practitioners to be 'practice entrepreneurs' by choosing from a variety of systems thinking methods (mapping, reflection) to engage actively in their positions. This highlights the importance of understanding how key concepts, both traditional planning approaches and systems science concepts, are interpreted and then implemented in real world settings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)589-599
    JournalHealth Promotion International
    Volume33
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

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