Understanding a successful obesity prevention initiative in children under 5 from a systems perspective

PLoS One. 2018 Mar 29;13(3):e0195141. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0195141. eCollection 2018.


Introduction/background: Systems thinking represents an innovative and logical approach to understanding complexity in community-based obesity prevention interventions. We report on an approach to apply systems thinking to understand the complexity of a successful obesity prevention intervention in early childhood (children aged up to 5 years) conducted in a regional city in Victoria, Australia.

Methods: A causal loop diagram (CLD) was developed to represent system elements related to a successful childhood obesity prevention intervention in early childhood. Key stakeholder interviews (n = 16) were examined retrospectively to generate purposive text data, create microstructures, and form a CLD.

Results: A CLD representing key stakeholder perceptions of a successful intervention comprised six key feedback loops explaining changes in project implementation over time. The loops described the dynamics of collaboration, network formation, community awareness, human resources, project clarity, and innovation.

Conclusion: The CLD developed provides a replicable means to capture, evaluate and disseminate a description of the dynamic elements of a successful obesity prevention intervention in early childhood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Health Services*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pediatric Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Systems Biology*