Practitioner insights on obesity prevention: the voice of South Australian OPAL workers

Health Promot Int. 2016 Jun;31(2):375-84. doi: 10.1093/heapro/dau118. Epub 2015 Feb 19.


Knowledge based on science has been central to implementing community-based childhood obesity prevention interventions. The art of practitioner wisdom is equally critical to ensure locally relevant responses. In South Australia (SA), the OPAL (Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle) program has been implemented to reduce childhood obesity across 20 communities reaching nearly one quarter of the state's population. Staff from across the State come together at regular intervals to share practice challenges and insights and refine the model of practice. Over a 3-year period 12 reflective practice workshops were held with OPAL staff (n = 46). OPAL staff were guided by an external facilitator using inquiring questions to reflect on their health promotion practice within local government. Three themes were identified as central within the reflections. The first theme is shared clarity through the OPAL obesity prevention model highlighting the importance of working to a clearly articulated, holistic obesity prevention model. The second theme is practitioner skill and sensitivity required to implement the model and deal with the 'politics' of obesity prevention. The final theme is the power of relationships as intrinsic to effective community based health promotion. Insights into the daily practices and reflections from obesity prevention practitioners are shared to shed light on the skills required to contribute to individual and social change. OPAL staff co-authored this paper.

Keywords: community health promotion; obesity prevention; prevention; service learning.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Clinical Competence
  • Community Health Services / methods
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Models, Organizational
  • Overweight / prevention & control
  • Pediatric Obesity / prevention & control*
  • South Australia