Deakin University

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Cultural adaptations and methodological innovations to group model building for the systems actions to reduce malnutrition in all its forms in Southeast Asian countries and China (SYSTAM CHINA-SEACS International Consortium) project

Version 2 2024-06-03, 00:54
Version 1 2023-10-20, 02:16
journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-03, 00:54 authored by B Li, Z He, R Peters, Steven AllenderSteven Allender, Y Zou, W Zhou, J Lao, BK Poh, B Swinburn
Abstract Background Group Model Building (GMB) is a participatory system dynamics method increasingly used to address complex public health issues like obesity. GMB represents a set of well-defined steps to engage key stakeholders to identify shared drivers and solutions of a given problem. However, GMB has not yet been applied specifically to develop multi-duty interventions that address multiple inter-related issues such as malnutrition in all its forms (MIAIF). Moreover, a recent systematic review of empirical applications of a systems approach to developing obesity interventions found no published work from non-western, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In this paper we describe adaptations and innovations to a common GMB process to co-develop systemic MIAIF interventions with Chinese decision-makers. Methods We developed, piloted and implemented multiple cultural adaptations and two methodological innovations to the commonly used GMB process in Fang Cheng Gang city, China. We included formal, ceremonial and policy maker engagement events before and between GMB workshops, and incorporated culturally tailored arrangements during participant recruitment (officials of the same seniority level joined the same workshop) and workshop activities (e.g., use of individual scoring activities and hand boards). We made changes to the commonly used GMB activities which enabled mapping of shared drivers of multiple health issues (in our case MIAIF) in a single causal loop diagram. We developed and used a ‘hybrid’ GMB format combining online and in person facilitation to reduce travel and associated climate impact. Results Our innovative GMB process led to high engagement and support from decision-makers representing diverse governmental departments across the whole food systems. We co-identified and prioritised systemic drivers and intervention themes of MIAIF. The city government established an official Local Action Group for long-term, inter-departmental implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the co-developed interventions. The ‘hybrid’ GMB format enabled great interactions while reducing international travel and mitigating limitations of fully online GMB process. Conclusions Cultural and methodological adaptations to the common GMB process for an Asian LMIC setting were successful. The ‘hybrid’ GMB format is feasible, cost-effective, and more environmentally friendly. These cultural adaptations could be considered for other Asian settings and beyond to address inter-related, complex issues such as MIAIF.



International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity



Article number





London, Eng.







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal