A prevention system: Even more than the sum of its parts
Project title: Understanding and improving systems for preventing lifestyle-related chronic diseases
This project is finished.
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 reported on current thinking regarding key attributes of effective systems for chronic disease prevention. Based on these findings, we drafted a framework 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.
What were the outcomes?
This work generated scientific insights into systems for chronic disease prevention. It resulted in a definition of a prevention system as: “diverse entities at multiple levels in unique and ever-changing contexts due to dynamic relationships among entities and actions”. The project also saw the development of a visual representation of the definition and the attributes of a system for chronic disease prevention.
These insights will help inform action and decision making for investments in prevention efforts to achieve effective, efficient and equitable outcomes for Australians.
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.
Project start date: January 2015
Project end date: June 2018
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.
- Baugh Littlejohns, L, Wilson, A, Wutzke, S. Developing an Australian framework for describing, assessing and strengthening prevention systems. Public Health Prevention Conference 2018, Sydney.
- Baugh Littlejohns, L, Baum, F, Lawless, A, Freeman, T. “Whose job is it to lead health promotion?” A systems thinking perspective. Public Health Prevention Conference 2018, Sydney.
- Baugh Littlejohns, L, Baum, F, Lawless, A, Freeman, T. A “poisoned chalice”? How systems thinking was useful to study key factors that influenced health promotion in Australia. Canadian Public Health Association conference 2018, Montreal.
- 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)
- Littlejohns L, Baum F, Lawless A, Freeman T. Disappearing health system building blocks in the health promotion policy context in South Australia (2003–2013). Crit Public Health. 2018; doi: 1080/09581596.2017.1418501
- Baugh Littlejohns L, Baum F, Lawless A, Freeman T. The value of a causal loop diagram in exploring the complex interplay of factors that influence health promotion in a multisectoral health system in Australia. Health Res Policy Sy. 2018;16:126. doi:10.1186/s12961-018-0394-x
- Baugh Littlejohns LK, Willis CD. Collaborative Value Creation Framework: The Potential for Strengthening Intersectoral Partnerships in Chronic Disease Prevention. Prog Comm Hlth Partn. 2018;12(4), 463-472.
- Wutzke S, Roberts N, Willis C, Best A, Wilson A, Trochim W. Setting strategy for system change: using concept mapping to prioritise national action for chronic disease prevention. Health Res Policy Syst. 2017;15:69 doi 10.1186/s12961-017-0231-7