Background and significance: Community-based interventions (CBI) that promote healthy environments are a promising strategy provided their planning and implementation is based on best practice and informed by evidence of effectiveness. In Australia, until recently, there has been a substantial political, financial and organisational investment in CBIs but their conceptualisations and lessons learned have not yet been consolidated.
Methods: The Collaboration of Community-based Obesity Prevention Sites (CO-OPS) was established as a national platform for knowledge translation and exchange among stakeholders, and has developed a regular online survey to describe the reach and characteristics of Australian CBIs, identify effective elements, and contribute to national and global monitoring.
Results: A total of 104 CBIs participated in the 2013 survey and results compared against a similar survey in 2010. Geographic location was associated with higher population density. Duration of CBIs was short-term (median 3 yrs; range 0.2 - 21.0 yrs), delivered mostly by health departments and local governments. Median annual CBI funding had more than doubled since the 2010 survey, but average staffing had not increased. CBIs used at least two strategy types, with a preference for individual behaviour change strategies. Targeting children was less common (31%) compared to the 2010 survey (57%). Logic models and theory were used in planning, but there was low use of research evidence and existing prevention frameworks. Nearly all CBIs had an evaluation component (12% of budget), but dissemination was limited.
Conclusion: This survey provides information on the scope and quality of the obesity prevention investment patterns in Australia. Geographic locations of CBIs are captured in detail by the CO-OPS interactive online map. To boost CBI quality, effectiveness and knowledge translation, further leadership and support systems are required to enable organisations to adopt upstream, evidence-informed approaches; and for effective integration of CBIs into systems, policies and environments.