Systems change framework for prevention



TYPE Prevention Centre News

Prevention Centre Co-Director Lucie Rychetnik said the framework has an explicit focus on creating change. “Too often prevention research has fallen short of having impact; not because it isn’t relevant but because it has described problems, rather than charting a pathway towards impactful action. This framework positions ‘change-making’ as central to prevention research,” she said.

The Prevention Systems Change Framework (PSCF) will help guide systems-change oriented chronic disease prevention research and has been informed by systems theory, implementation theory, community psychology and organisational change. It draws on the work of prominent systems thinkers Pennie Foster-Fishman and Erin Watson by adapting their ABLe change framework for the prevention research context.

In a new publication, “From understanding to impactful action: systems thinking for systems change in chronic disease prevention research”, the international project team shared how researchers can develop a pathway for creating systems change through deep systems analysis and reflective learning, followed by the development and implementation of a theory of systems change.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Melanie Pescud led the team developing the framework to answer key questions such as: ‘how can we, as chronic disease prevention researchers, shift beyond describing systems to embrace research focused on impactful action by creating change within those systems? How can we move beyond the rhetoric and aspirations of change-making; particularly when the evidence tells us what is needed, but we feel hamstrung to act or are not sure about our role or responsibility?’

Dr Pescud highlighted how implementation science and theories of systems change have much to offer in prevention research. “We believe that as researchers we need to be willing to reflect on our own roles within the systems we are studying, and to look for our potential blind spots in an ongoing process of reflection, action and feedback from new and diverse perspectives,” she said.

The PSCF can be used to guide systems-based research planning, monitoring, study team reflective learning, and research evaluation processes by working through four iterative steps in the context of prevention research:

  • Applying a systemic lens to the prevention problem being studied
  • Holding an implementation focus
  • Integrating the systems lens and the implementation focus
  • Developing a theory of systems change.

The framework is included in the new project page devoted to systems thinking that brings together key publications and resources from our systems approach to chronic disease prevention research.