Can the NSW Premier’s Priority on childhood obesity be met? Dynamic simulation modelling shows how

It is theoretically possible to achieve the NSW Premier’s Priority target of a 5% reduction in childhood overweight and obesity in NSW by the end of 2025 – but significant cross‐portfolio policy actions will be required.

That’s the finding of a system dynamics model built by the Prevention Centre together with the NSW Ministry of Health, the Department of Premier and Cabinet and leading academic experts, to determine what interventions would be required to achieve the Premier’s target.

The project brought together modelling experts with academics, policy experts and practitioners in a series of workshops to map the complex interaction of factors leading to childhood overweight and obesity in NSW. The findings were released in a paper published in Systems Research and Behavioral Science.

The model revealed the collective effect of different combinations of interventions, as well as when they needed to be implemented to achieve the target.

It found ‘business as usual’ interventions, such as continuing NSW Health programs at their current level, would not achieve the target. Supplementing these interventions to improve their reach and adoption rates still would not reach the target.

However, it would be possible to meet the target if a full range of cross-sectoral actions were undertaken, including improving the built environment, increasing children’s sport and recreation and active transport (including bike paths and improved pavements), and introducing new fiscal policies, the model found.

“These interventions fall under jurisdictions including health, urban planning and education portfolios and therefore require cross‐sectoral collaborative government action,” the paper said.

“The findings of this modelling exercise confirm the conclusions of evidence reviews … and international policy directions … namely, that childhood overweight and obesity is influenced by multiple determinants. As a consequence, a socioecological, multi‐agency approach is necessary. The need for a cross‐sectoral government response to childhood overweight and obesity is reflected in the NSW Health delivery plan for this priority.”

The model forecast that interventions would have little discernible impact until 2020. All the interventions needed to be implemented in order to reach the target approximately 6 months after the proposed end date of mid‐2025.

“If any of the target estimates of intervention reach and adoption are not realized, the suite of interventions would not achieve the target by the 2025 target date. This suggests that if a greater level of certainty around reaching the target on time is required, additional strategies to increase the impact of interventions are likely to be required,” the paper concluded.

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