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Perceived impacts of COVID-19 and bushfires on the implementation of an obesity prevention trial in Northeast Victoria, Australia

Background Calls for the adoption of a systems approach to chronic disease prevention date back at least ten years because of the potential to empower communities to identify and address the complex causes of overnutrition, undernutrition and climate change. Australia, like many countries, has high levels of obesity and extreme climate events. The Reflexive Evidence and Systems interventions to Prevent Obesity and Non-communicable Disease (RESPOND) trial aims to prevent unhealthy weight gain in children in 10 intervention and two pilot communities in north-east Victoria, Australia using community-based participatory approaches informed by systems science. Intervention activities co-designed in 2019 were disrupted by COVID-19 and bushfires. This paper explores the impacts of these 'shocks' on the local prevention workforce to implement actions within communities. Methods A case study design involving one-hour online focus groups and an on-line survey (November 2021-February 2022). Purposive sampling was used to achieve diverse representation from RESPOND stakeholders including local council, health services, primary care partnerships and department of health. The focus group interview schedule and survey questions were based on Durlak and DuPre's implementation factors. Results Twenty-nine participants from seven different communities participated in at least one of nine focus groups to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 and bushfires on localised implementation. Twenty-eight participants (97% of focus group sample) also completed the on-line survey. Implementation of RESPOND stalled or stopped in most communities due to bushfires and/or COVID-19. These shocks resulted in organisational priorities changing, loss of momentum for implementation, redeployment of human resources, culminating in fatigue and exhaustion. Participants reported adaptation of RESPOND, but implementation was slowed due to limited resources. Conclusion Further research is needed to advance risk management strategies and protect resources within health promotion. System shocks such as bushfires and COVID-19 are inevitable, and despite multiple adaptation opportunities, this intervention approach was not 'shock proof'.

History

Journal

PLoS ONE

Volume

18

Pagination

e0287468-e0287468

Location

United States

ISSN

1932-6203

eISSN

1932-6203

Language

en

Editor/Contributor(s)

McGill E

Issue

6 JUNE

Publisher

Public Library of Science (PLoS)

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