To support healthy public policy and leadership at the population level, multi-component community-based initiatives (CBI) appear promising in preventing obesity, with several countries trialling this approach. In Australia all levels of government and non-government organisations have funded and facilitated a wide array of CBI aiming to prevent obesity, heterogeneous in their funding, timing, target audience and structure. This heterogeneity presents challenges for efficient collaboration and information-sharing between CBIs. The Collaboration of Community based Obesity Prevention Sites (CO-OPS) is a national knowledge translation and exchange initiative which aims to link research, policy and practice professionals to support best practice. CO-OPS established a central repository of CBI operating in Australia during 2013, to facilitate this knowledge exchange.
A comprehensive search of government, non-government and community websites was undertaken to identify currently operating CBI in Australia in 2013 using a targeted keyword search strategy. The search was supplemented with data accessed from available reports, personal communication and key informant interviews. Data were translated into an online interactive map, made publicly available for use by preventive health practitioners and other interested stakeholders.
In total 259 CBIs were identified. The location of CBI generally reflected population density, with the majority (84%) having a dual focus on physical activity and healthy eating. Few initiatives, (n=37) adopted a multi-strategy approach that combined policy implementation, built environment changes, social marketing and partnership building.
This comprehensive overview and dissemination of the location and key features of Australian CBIs may help to facilitate engagement and collaboration through knowledge exchange and information-sharing among geographically-disparate CBI practitioners, funders, communities and researchers. Together with the detailed analysis of CBI characteristics from the CO-OPS survey, evidence of current practice and potential for future improvement emerge.
An enhanced understanding of the location and key features of current CBIs highlights areas of strengths (eg dual focus) and opportunities for improvement (eg policy development) to maximise the efficiency and impact of CBI.