Deakin University

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Measuring Shifts in Mental Models in the Prevention of Childhood Obesity in Rural Australia

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-01, 23:58 authored by Tiana Felmingham, Kristy A Bolton, Penny Fraser, Steven Allender, Andrew D Brown
Group model building is a participatory workshop technique used in system dynamics for developing community consensus to address complex problems by consensus building on individual assumptions. This study examines changes in individual mental models of the complex problem of childhood obesity following participation in group model building (GMB), as part of a larger community-based system dynamics project. Data are drawn from GMB participants across six community sites in the Whole of Systems Trial of Prevention Strategies for Childhood Obesity (WHO STOPS) in rural and regional Victoria, Australia. Each community participated in two GMB sessions resulting in a causal loop diagram (CLD) of drivers of childhood obesity for each community. Presurvey and postsurvey captured participants’ perspectives before and after ( n = 25) participation in both GMB sessions and a blend of inductive and deductive qualitative content analysis was used to code individual responses. Three calculations were used to determine the number of responses, whether responses were a result of persuasion from others, and comparison of responses to those found in the CLD. Our study found participant mental models shifted during the course of the GMB sessions, with some responses persuaded by others and 75% of new insights identified in CLDs created by communities. The GMB process created a platform for participants to share ideas and learn from each other. In addition, participants listed new insights about childhood obesity in their community through developing CLDs.



Health Education & Behavior




London, Eng.







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal


SAGE Publications