Community-based interventions for obesity prevention: lessons learned by Australian policy-makers

BMC Res Notes. 2012 Jan 10;5:20. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-5-20.

Abstract

Background: Interest in community-based interventions (CBIs) for health promotion is increasing, with a lot of recent activity in the field. This paper aims, from a state government perspective, to examine the experience of funding and managing six obesity prevention CBIs, to identify lessons learned and to consider the implications for future investment. Specifically, we focus on the planning, government support, evaluation, research and workforce development required.

Methods: The lessons presented in this paper come from analysis of key project documents, the experience of the authors in managing the projects and from feedback obtained from key program stakeholders.

Results: CBIs require careful management, including sufficient planning time and clear governance structures. Selection of interventions should be based on evidence and tailored to local needs to ensure adequate penetration in the community. Workforce and community capacity must be assessed and addressed when selecting communities. Supporting the health promotion workforce to become adequately skilled and experienced in evaluation and research is also necessary before implementation.Comprehensive evaluation of future projects is challenging on both technical and affordability grounds. Greater emphasis may be needed on process evaluation complemented by organisation-level measures of impact and monitoring of nutrition and physical activity behaviours.

Conclusions: CBIs offer potential as one of a mix of approaches to obesity prevention. If successful approaches are to be expanded, care must be taken to incorporate lessons from existing and past projects. To do this, government must show strong leadership and work in partnership with the research community and local practitioners.