Capturing local action to prevent obesity: A service mapping approach (#181)
Knowledge of the policies and programs that exist locally can provide useful insight into local decision making contexts and the formal and informal system-level drivers that constrain and shape policy and practice, and help or hinder the uptake of research evidence.It also provides a logical starting point for thinking about what, if anything, to do differently. Here we describe the first phase of a broader research study, which seeks to identify and describe the current array of policies and programs relevant to obesity prevention in twelve Victorian local government areas.
A service-mapping approach was used to compile and structure information about programs and policies, in an effort to elevate the process beyond typical mapping of practice. Data was gathered via local system inventories, key informants (questioned over email, telephone or face-to-face), web searches and document review. Potential policies and programs were screened for eligibility using predetermined inclusion / exclusion criteria. Data was then extracted about key components, such as geographic location, target population and supporting evidence base.
A wide range of policies and programs exist, driven by Federal, State and local organisations, targeting both the direct and indirect determinants of obesity. Action is occurring across multiple levels targeting populations and high-risk groups. Information related to the evidence base and plans for evaluation is not always readily available, with the exception, perhaps, of larger-scale initiatives.
Mapping the array of policies and programs that exist locally provides an important platform for inquiry into why things exist the way they do, the extent to which evidence has guided decision-making, and what changes may serve to enhance effective action.