UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Understanding the sustainment of population health programmes from a whole-of-system approach Crane, Melanie; Nathan, Nicole; Bauman, Adrian; McKay, Heather Anne, 1954-; Lee, Karen; Wiggers, John; Bauman, Adrian


Background Population health prevention programmes are needed to reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases. Nevertheless, sustaining programmes at a population level is challenging. Population health is highly influenced by social, economic and political environments and is vulnerable to these system-level changes. The aim of this research was to examine the factors and mechanisms contributing to the sustainment of population prevention programmes taking a systems thinking approach. Methods We conducted a qualitative study through interviews with population health experts working within Australian government and non-government agencies experienced in sustaining public health programs at the local, state or national level (n = 13). We used a deductive thematic approach, grounded in systems thinking to analyse data. Results We identified four key barriers affecting program sustainment: 1) short term political and funding cycles; 2) competing interests; 3) silo thinking within health service delivery; and 4) the fit of a program to population needs. To overcome these barriers various approaches have centred on the importance of long-range planning and resourcing, flexible program design and management, leadership and partnerships, evidence generation, and system support structures. Conclusion This study provides key insights for overcoming challenges to the sustainment of population health programmes amidst complex system-wide changes.

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Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)