Preventing and controlling chronic disease helps people to live longer and healthier lives. There is high-quality evidence that prevention of chronic disease is effective and cost-effective and that these impacts can be influential at a population level.
The causes of chronic diseases are complex and varied. Many interconnected factors contribute to the decisions people make about their behaviour, including their background, their environment and their ability to make healthy choices.
This complexity means we need a new way to tackle the problem of chronic disease. To effectively prevent complex chronic health problems in the long term, we need to recognise the role of social, economic and environmental factors and how each of these interacts. This requires a systems approach. A system is a set of interrelated parts that form a whole.
A system is not the sum of its parts, but rather the product of their interaction.
Systems thinking is a way to make sense of a complex system, by exploring the relationships, boundaries and perspectives in a system. It can help us approach otherwise unmanageable problems by providing:
Systems approaches are the specific tools and methods we can use to better understand the system and the complex problems within it. They are particularly useful because they do not require us to know everything about the system before engaging in problem-solving activities.
To change health behaviour, we need a range of governments, organisations and individuals to work together in a coordinated way to attack the problem from many different angles and in dynamic, flexible ways. Applying systems thinking and systems approaches enables us to create an environment that supports people to make better health decisions and avoid chronic disease.
Find out how to use systems thinking and the Prevention Centre’s approach to systems thinking.
More about prevention
What is prevention?Prevention is any action taken to protect and promote the health of populations. Prevention aims to prevent poor health, illness, injury and early death from occurring.
What is the burden of chronic disease?Chronic diseases are not only the leading cause of premature death in this country, they restrict how millions of Australians live every day.
How can I make the case for prevention?Small changes in the prevalence of the risk factors for chronic disease are likely to lead to a significant reduction in the health burden.