Systems science

Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition

GLOBE is undertaking research to understand how formal systems science methods can continue to build deeper and more meaningful insights into how complex problems work, and how we can understand and navigate the many possible solutions that might address them.

Systems science is a diverse and exciting field, comprising many separate but complementary methods, each of which can help us understand different aspects of complex problems.

From understanding and simulating the complex, interconnected causes of a problem (system dynamics) to examining how the structure of groups, networks, and collaborations can be changed by, or can cause changes in health outcomes (network analysis), to computer simulations of systems and the ways in which people interact with them (agent-based modelling), systems science provides a range of insights.

As we explore new directions in systems thinking, we’re building research projects that examine how these formal systems science methods can be used to rapidly analyse how systems are responding to intervention, and what this may mean for quality improvement and optimisation of interventions as they are being delivered.

  • Active Geelong

    Active Geelong convenes a network of organisations, employers and civic leaders with the goal of making Geelong Australia’s most active city.

    In 2019, Active Geelong brought together a network of local physicians who were interested in exploring their role in promoting healthier lifestyles to their patients to promote better health over the life course.

    Merging systems mapping, machine learning, and a multi-site trial across 13 GP clinics around Geelong and the Surf Coast, this project developed a process to bring a focused group through a systems-mapping and action-prioritisation process, supported by an AI-led optimisation study to test the real-world effectiveness of the actions identified by the participating physicians.

  • WHO STOPS (Whole of System Trial of Prevention Strategies for Childhood Obesity)

    In Australia, approximately one in four school children live with overweight or obesity. It is estimated that obesity costs the economy around $21 billion annually in direct health and indirect cost among adults. Childhood and adolescence are critical windows for obesity prevention, as childhood obesity largely persists into adulthood, as do health behaviours established during early life including diet and physical activity.

    Monitoring overweight and obesity is crucial in Australia and internationally to analyse prevailing trends, pinpoint existing and widening disparities, facilitate interventions and shape policies. Presently, Australia lacks a systematic and highly participatory routine monitoring system at the local, state, and national levels among school-children. This stands in contrast to numerous other countries and states such as England, several U.S. states, Singapore, Sweden, and The Netherlands. Recognizing the need for regular and comprehensive monitoring, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has emphasized the necessity for behavioural and environmental risk factor monitoring.

    In 2015, after receiving a Western Alliance Grants In-Aid award, the Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition team (GLOBE) at Deakin University alongside community partners, set to establish Australia’s largest measured childhood obesity surveillance system that employed an opt-out approach to student recruitment. This surveillance system covered the six local government areas (LGA) including five within the Great South Coast region (Southern Grampians, Glenelg, Moyne, Warrnambool, Corangamite) and the Colac Otway Shire, herein collectively referred to as ‘the region’. Measurement in 2017 and 2019 were funded through an NHMRC Partnership Project Grant.

    Download the Regional Child Health Behaviours and Monitoring Report (2015-2019): Southwest Victoria