Using a systems thinking approach to support healthy and sustainable food systems
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Deakin University, Australia
UMC Amsterdam, The Netherlands
UMC Amsterdam, Australia
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1890
Outline of Workshop:
Public health interventions and policies are often implemented outside the health care system. These interventions and policies require the involvement of a diverse range of stakeholders, many without a health background. Additionally, while some interventions and policies may be implemented in a single setting (for example, a school), they often need to be implemented in multiple, interacting settings in order to achieve the desired results. Systems thinking offers opportunities to deepen our understanding of complex environments, stakeholder perspectives, causal structures driving organisational behaviour, and potential unintended consequences of policy decisions and interventions. This workshop will introduce participants to the potential of systems thinking approaches applied to healthy, equitable and sustainable food systems. It will present methodology and a range of simple tools that can be used to address complex problems and help map the dynamics of a system (e.g. feedback loops, systems pyramids). Feedback loops are an important tool within systems thinking to help people better understand how a system may respond to interventions and policies. Participants will also be introduced to a specific framework used in food retail environments - Systems Thinking Approach to Retail Transformation map (START map), how it might be used to advance research and practice, and examples of how systems thinking concepts can guide stakeholder engagement, identification of leverage points, and implementation planning. This workshop will be building on workshops delivered across Australia and the Netherlands to public health practitioners, policy makers, and researchers.

Aim: To increase the capacity of participants to apply a systems lens to complex public health problems through practical application of systems thinking tools to engage stakeholders, identify leverage points, and plan implementation approaches, by drawing on a case study of healthy food retail change.

Introduction to systems thinking (10 min) What do we mean by ‘systems thinking’Introduction to feedback loopsBenefits of using systems thinking when planning and implementing interventions to tackle complex problemsOverview of some of the main ‘tools’ usedSystems thinking concepts in healthy food systems (25 min) Deep dive into systems pyramid as a tool (15 min)Practical application of systems pyramid using case studies – participants apply their learnings through provided worksheets (10 min)Case study of healthy food retail tool (10 min) Overview of the START map and its potential use by researchers and practitionersDiscussion (10 min)Close (5 min)

Key Questions Workshop Will Address:
What are practical systems thinking tools that can be applied to better understand complex problems and identify dynamic solutions within healthy and sustainable food systems?What are the benefits of using systems thinking when planning and implementing healthy food retail interventions or policies?

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