Using systems thinking to drive community changes for better health

Details

Status current

Start Date

Estimated End Date

Introduction

The project team will engage with two Tasmanian communities to test if the Systems Change Framework is appropriate for supporting communities to take a systems approach, and whether it will help them identify and respond to causes of poor health that are unique to their context.

About

A systems approach for enabling community driven change to improve health and wellbeing

Project title

What is the issue?

Policies and plans to improve health and wellbeing often use traditional approaches that are linear and address the obvious symptoms of complex situations. However well-intended, these approaches often don’t work – or make things worse – because they fail to understand the connected, interrelated and underlying causes of the situation.

Systems thinking is an approach that helps us see the big picture of a situation, such as chronic disease, and its underlying causes to more effectively intervene. It offers tools and practices that help engage with the complexity and shift the system to a more desirable state.

In earlier work, we developed a Systems Change Framework, which draws on the diverse field of systems thinking. The framework outlines a structure, process, and set of practices for individuals and collaborations to become more familiar with and capable of engaging with complexity to achieve lasting and meaningful change.

This PhD project will test the effectiveness of the Systems Change Framework at the community level, which may offer an alternative approach to traditional health and wellbeing planning. The aim is to build systems thinking capacity and processes that enable locally-driven change to improve health and wellbeing.

How is the project addressing the issue?

We will engage with two Tasmanian communities to test whether the Systems Change Framework is appropriate for supporting communities to take a systems approach, and whether it will help them identify and respond to causes of poor health that are unique to their context.

We will undertake literature reviews and surveys to look at traditional and systems approaches to health and wellbeing at the community level, and position the Systems Change Framework within this landscape.

Relevance for policy and practice

We will deliver policy recommendations regarding approaches to improve health and wellbeing at the community level in Tasmania, including whether the Systems Change Framework is sound enough to support a decision for state-wide implementation.

What are the expected outcomes?

This project will improve understanding of the feasibility and effectiveness of using the Systems Change Framework to improve health and wellbeing in Tasmanian communities. It will show how the Tasmanian Government can support community leaders to identify priorities and actions to improve health and wellbeing.

Funding

This project is funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, ACT Health, Cancer Council Australia, NSW Ministry of Health, Wellbeing SA, Tasmanian Department of Health, and VicHealth.