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Open Access Highly Accessed Correspondence

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

Michelle M Haby12*, Rebecca Doherty1, Nicky Welch13 and Vicky Mason1

Author Affiliations

1 Prevention & Population Health Branch, Victorian Government Department of Health, 50 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia

2 Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics; School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, 207 Bouverie St, Carlton, Victoria 3053, Australia

3 La Trobe Rural Health School, Faculty of Health Sciences, P.O. Box 199, Bendigo, Victoria 3552, Australia

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:20  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-20

Published: 10 January 2012

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.