Developing a Community-Wide Obesity Strategy

Obesity rates for children 2-14 years old in the Tairawhiti District on the East Coast of New Zealand are twice the National average. As one of only three Districts in the country with childhood obesity rates above 20%, Tairawhiti wanted to develop a community-wide response. Led by the local District Health Board, a broad group of people were brought together to develop a co-ordinated obesity strategy for the region. This involved staff from the DHB, local government, local social services and sports organisations, as well as Iwi and community leaders.

Initial work uncovered 5 key themes driving the levels of obesity in the region. These were deprivation, the strength of marketing from the food industry, the disconnection and alienation that the Māori population had experienced, the physical environment, including the impact of video games and poor road safety which discouraged walking and cycling difficult and the fact that providers were largely working in isolation from each other. All of these interacted with each other to deliver the levels of obesity seen in the region

The process used Group Model Building (GMB) to understand the key drivers of obesity in the region and explore potential interventions. Working across different organisations the workshop participants developed a number of causal maps that helped ‘tell the story’ of obesity in ways that enabled them to identify potential interventions.

Over a series of three workshops the participants combined their casual maps into an overall map that brought the various themes together. Blown up to an A1 size that map has been adopted as their ‘1-page strategy’ and was used to direct and co-ordinate actions in the community

Project lead: Dr. David Rees

Timeline: August – September 2017

Location: Gisborne