Deakin University

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Participatory System Dynamics Approach Targeting Childhood Health in a Small Danish Community (Children’s Cooperation Denmark): Protocol for a Feasibility Study Design

journal contribution
posted on 2023-04-26, 00:52 authored by K Ryom, H Kirkegaard, Steven AllenderSteven Allender, A Aaby, C Breddam, HT Maindal, JN Østergaard
Background: Improving childhood health is complex due to the multifactorial nature and interaction of determinants. Complex problems call for complex intervention thinking, and simple one-size-fits-all solutions do not work to improve childhood health. Early awareness is important, as behavior in childhood often is manifested across adolescence and into adulthood. To facilitate shared understanding of the complex structures and relationships that determine children’s health behavior, participatory system approaches in, for example, local communities have shown promising potential. However, such approaches are not used systematically within public health in Denmark, and before being rolled out, they should be tested for their feasibility within this context. Objective: This paper describes the study design for Children’s Cooperation Denmark (Child-COOP) feasibility study that is aiming to examine the feasibility and acceptability of the participatory system approach and the study procedures for a future scale-up controlled trial. Methods: The feasibility study is designed as a process evaluation of the intervention with the use of both qualitative and quantitative methods. A local childhood health profile will provide data for childhood health issues, for example, daily physical activity behavior, sleep patterns, anthropometry, mental health, screen use, parental support, and leisure-time activities. Data at system level are collected to assess development in the community, for example, readiness to change, analysis of social networks with stakeholders, rippled effects mapping, and changes in system map. The setting is a small rural town in Denmark, Havndal, with children as the primary target group. Group model building, a participatory system dynamics method, will be used to engage the community, create consensus on the drivers of childhood health, identify local opportunities, and develop context-specific actions. Results: The Child-COOP feasibility study will test the participatory system dynamics approach for intervention and evaluation design and survey objective measures of childhood health behavior and well-being among the ~100 children (6-13 years) attending the local primary school. Community-level data will also be collected. We will assess the contextual factors, implementation of interventions, and mechanisms of impact as part of a process evaluation. Data will be collected at baseline, at 2 years, and 4 years of follow-up. Ethical approval for this study was sought and granted from the Danish Scientific Ethical Committee (1-10-72-283-21). Conclusions: s: The potential of this participatory system dynamics approach includes opportunities for community engagement and local capacity building to improve children’s health and health behavior, and this feasibility study holds the potential to prepare an upscaling of the intervention for effectiveness testing.



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