A prevention system: Even more than the sum of its parts

Project title: Understanding and improving systems for preventing lifestyle-related chronic diseases

Start date: January 2015
Estimated end date: June 2018

What is the issue?

Policymakers and planners across Australia have responded to the prevention of the epidemic of chronic disease by producing a large number of frameworks, strategies and action plans to further whole-of-society and whole-of government approaches that recognise the numerous biological, social, physical, cultural and economic factors that are at play.

While there are frameworks to support strengthening health care systems, there are no clear frameworks for describing, assessing and strengthening effective systems for chronic disease prevention.

How is the project addressing the issue?

This project aims to support the achievement of the Prevention Centre’s vision for effective, efficient and equitable systems for chronic disease prevention in Australia.

Through a comprehensive literature review, we are reporting on current thinking regarding key attributes of effective systems for chronic disease prevention. Based on these findings, a framework will be drafted to describe and assess systems.

A proof-of-concept study will involve testing the framework through document review of key Australian strategic plans for chronic disease prevention, and making recommendations.

Future plans include engaging with interested policy makers and practitioners in systemic inquiry based on applying the framework to strengthen prevention.

Relevance for practice

This program of work aims to better understand and apply a complex systems perspective and provide recommendations about how to strengthen systems for chronic disease prevention in Australia.

What are the expected outcomes?

It is anticipated that this program of work will generate both scientific and practical insights into systems for chronic disease prevention (for example, new ways to conceptualise chronic disease prevention systems, novel frameworks for planning system activities, and new tools to support effective decision making). These insights will help inform action and decision making for investments in prevention efforts to achieve effective, efficient and equitable outcomes for Australians.



This project is led by Prevention Centre Director Professor Andrew Wilson and Dr Lori Baugh Littlejohns, Research Fellow, University of Sydney.

We acknowledge the invaluable input into this project of our colleague, mentor, and above-all friend, Associate Professor Sonia Wutzke (1970–2017). The public health community is richer for having had you as one of its most passionate advocates.



This project was funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Ministry of Health, ACT Health and the HCF Research Foundation.


NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Government Health, HCF Research Foundation, ACT Government Health, hosted by Sax Institute

The literature review and document review are nearing completion.


  • June 2014: Mapping the preventive health workforce Download the report (PDF, 900KB)
  • July 2015: Systemic inquiry: A system for the prevention of chronic disease in Australia, scoping workshop report Download the report (PDF, 1.7KB)