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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Increasing community capacity to prevent childhood obesity: challenges, lessons learned and results from the Romp & Chomp intervention

Florentine P de Groot1, Narelle M Robertson1, Boyd A Swinburn1 and Andrea M de Silva-Sanigorski12*

Author Affiliations

1 WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, Deakin University, 1 Gheringhap Street, Geelong, Victoria 3220, Australia

2 Jack Brockhoff Child Health & Wellbeing Program, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:522  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-522

Published: 31 August 2010

Abstract

Background

Obesity is a major public health issue; however, only limited evidence is available about effective ways to prevent obesity, particularly in early childhood. Romp & Chomp was a community-wide obesity prevention intervention conducted in Geelong Australia with a target group of 12,000 children aged 0-5 years. The intervention had an environmental and capacity building focus and we have recently demonstrated that the prevalence of overweight/obesity was lower in intervention children, post-intervention. Capacity building is defined as the development of knowledge, skills, commitment, structures, systems and leadership to enable effective health promotion and the aim of this study was to determine if the capacity of the Geelong community, represented by key stakeholder organisations, to support healthy eating and physical activity for young children was increased after Romp & Chomp.

Methods

A mixed methods evaluation with three data sources was utilised. 1) Document analysis comprised assessment of the documented formative and intervention activities against a capacity building framework (five domains: Partnerships, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Workforce Development, and Organisational Development); 2) Thematic analysis of key informant interviews (n = 16); and 3) the quantitative Community Capacity Index Survey.

Results

Document analysis showed that the majority of the capacity building activities addressed the Partnerships, Resource Allocation and Organisational Development domains of capacity building, with a lack of activity in the Leadership and Workforce Development domains. The thematic analysis revealed the establishment of sustainable partnerships, use of specialist advice, and integration of activities into ongoing formal training for early childhood workers. Complex issues also emerged from the key informant interviews regarding the challenges of limited funding, high staff turnover, changing governance structures, lack of high level leadership and unclear communication strategies. The Community Capacity Index provided further evidence that the project implementation network achieved a moderate level of capacity.

Conclusions

Romp & Chomp increased the capacity of organisations, settings and services in the Geelong community to support healthy eating and physical activity for young children. Despite this success there are important learnings from this mixed methods evaluation that should inform current and future community-based public health and health promotion initiatives.

Trial Registration Number

ANZCTRN12607000374460