As obesity prevention practitioners increasingly recognise the need to up-scale initiatives and embed changes into environments and systems, sharing of information on how to do this is crucial. Evidence-informed practice acknowledges the use of various types of knowledge and evidence to guide decision-making, most often through peer-reviewed publications, guidelines and syntheses. Knowledge acquired through professional experience is an equally important evidence source. Narrative approaches, such as case studies, can capture this tacit knowledge or evidence from practice, however, methods and tools for their systematic collection, appraisal and reporting are limited.
The Australian Collaboration of Obesity Prevention Sites (CO-OPS) links practitioners with research and policy to encourage best practice. To facilitate the systematic capture of case study information, CO-OPS developed and piloted an appraisal tool (informed by tools from the WHO and CDC). This tool assesses the alignment between reported practices and five pre-determined best practice principles (BPPs), featuring 24 components, relating to consultation, planning, implementation, sustainability and evaluation of community-based initiatives (CBI).
The appraisal tool was piloted on 14 CBI around Australian in 2013/4. Case studies were found to have applied a range of components across the five pre-determined BPPs. The most commonly applied BPP was program design and planning specifically components of problem analysis; target groups and equity; and program positioning and framing. Components least applied were funding; adaptation and responsiveness; and use of theory/levers for change. Feedback and support on identified BPP gaps was provided by CO-OPS to the practitioner to enhance reporting and dissemination, and strengthen future CBI.
The CO-OPS case study approach has the potential to enhance awareness and adoption of best practice principles by practitioners and to produce a co-created narrative that can contribute tacit knowledge to the evidence base for population level obesity prevention responses.