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Understanding the dynamics of obesity prevention policy decision-making using a systems perspective: A case study of Healthy Together Victoria

Clarke, Brydie, Kwon, Janelle, Swinburn, Boyd and Sacks, Gary 2021, Understanding the dynamics of obesity prevention policy decision-making using a systems perspective: A case study of Healthy Together Victoria, PLoS ONE, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 1-23, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0245535.

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Title Understanding the dynamics of obesity prevention policy decision-making using a systems perspective: A case study of Healthy Together Victoria
Author(s) Clarke, Brydie
Kwon, Janelle
Swinburn, Boyd
Sacks, GaryORCID iD for Sacks, Gary orcid.org/0000-0001-9736-1539
Journal name PLoS ONE
Volume number 16
Issue number 1
Start page 1
End page 23
Total pages 23
Publisher PLOS
Place of publication San Francisco, CA
Publication date 2021-01-22
ISSN 1932-6203
Keyword(s) obesity
public policy
decision making
land use
health care policy
science policy
political theory
political science
Science & Technology
Multidisciplinary Sciences
Science & Technology - Other Topics
CORPORATE POLITICAL ACTIVITY
NONCOMMUNICABLE DISEASES
NUTRITION POLICY
INTERVENTIONS
GOVERNMENT
SCIENCE
COMPLEXITY
CHALLENGES
FRAMEWORK
BARRIERS
Summary Introduction: Despite global recommendations for governments to implement a comprehensive suite of policies to address obesity, policy adoption has been deficient globally. This paper utilised political science theory and systems thinking methods to examine the dynamics underlying decisions regarding obesity prevention policy adoption within the context of the Australian state government initiative, Healthy Together Victoria (HTV) (2011-2016). The aim was to understand key influences on policy processes, and to identify potential opportunities to increase the adoption of recommended policies.

Methods: Data describing government processes in relation to the adoption of six policy interventions considered as part of HTV were collected using interviews (n = 57), document analyses (n = 568) and field note observations. The data were analysed using multiple political science theories. A systematic method was then used to develop a Causal Loop Diagram (CLD) for each policy intervention. A simplified meta-CLD was generated from synthesis of common elements across each of the six policy interventions.

Results: The dynamics of policy change could be explained using a series of feedback loops. Five interconnected balancing loops served to reduce the propensity for policy change. These pertained to an organisational norm of risk aversion, and the complexity resulting from a whole-of-government policy approach and in-depth stakeholder consultation. However, seven virtuous reinforcing loops helped overcome policy resistance through policy actor capabilities that were improved over time as policy actors gained experience in advocating for change.

Conclusion: Policy processes for obesity prevention are complex and resistant to change. In order to increase adoption of recommended policies, several capabilities of policy actors, including policy skills, political astuteness, negotiation skills and consensus building, should be fostered and strengthened. Strategies to facilitate effective and broad-based consultation, both across and external to government, need to be implemented in ways that do not result in substantial delays in the policy process.
Language eng
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0245535
Indigenous content off
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2021, Clarke et al.
Free to Read? Yes
Use Rights Creative Commons Attribution licence
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30147656

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Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that permission has been obtained for items included in DRO. If you believe that your rights have been infringed by this repository, please contact drosupport@deakin.edu.au.