Generating change through collective impact and systems science for childhood obesity prevention: The GenR8 Change case study



Community-based interventions have shown promise in reducing childhood overweight and obesity. However, they have been critiqued for using linear logic models. Participatory community-based systems approaches are posited as addressing the complexity of non-linear relationships in a local context. Community members are empowered to understand and describe obesity causation, identify and prioritise possible solutions. The application of such approaches to childhood obesity is in its infancy.


To describe the first 12 months of a participatory whole-of-community systems approach to creating collective action to tackle childhood obesity, called GenR8 Change, in a local government area of Victoria, Australia.


Three group model building (GMB) sessions focused on the development of a causal loop diagram (CLD), prioritised evidence-informed actions, and developed implementation strategies. The collective impact framework underpinned the approach, with a local backbone group supporting community members to implement prioritised actions.


The first two GMB sessions included 20 key community leaders where a CLD examining the factors contributing to childhood obesity in the community was constructed and refined (22 variables GMB1, 53 variables GMB2). In the third session, 171 members of the wider community further refined the CLD, identified priorities for childhood obesity prevention (72 variables in final CLD). One-hundred and thirteen individuals signed up across 13 working groups to plan and implement 53 prioritised actions. Agreed community actions included creating sugar free zones; developing healthy policies; increasing breastfeeding rates; improving drinking water access; and increasing physical activity options. Twelve months post-GMB3, 115 actions had been implemented.


GenR8 Change is one of the first communities to apply systems thinking to childhood obesity prevention. Knowledge on how to collectively identify relevant leverage points to tackle childhood obesity can now be shared with other communities.


Community-based interventions, Childhood obesity, Non-linear relationships, Implementation strategies

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