Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking

There are some exciting changes taking place in health promotion and prevention… locally, across Victoria, in other parts of Australia as well as internationally. This will take place over some time but is likely to influence the way agencies work over the next few years.

The information below has been taken from a publication provided to communities initially involved in the Healthy Together Victoria (HTV) initiative in 2012. Healthy Together Victoria applies ‘systems thinking’ to 12 pilot sites across Victoria.

Although increasingly used in public health, the term ‘systems thinking’ continues to be defined in a variety of ways.

  1. It is sometimes used to describe health promotion strategies that are comprehensive, multi-level, multi-agency and involving multiple components.

  2. It is sometimes used more like a checklist to ensure that all of elements needed to deliver comprehensive health promotion are in place — leadership, a workforce, partnerships, finance and information. This is the building blocks approach.

  3. It is sometimes used to refer not to the prevention system but to the social and political systems that shape population health. This recognises that communities and workplaces are systems, that there is a food production system, a tobacco marketing system and so on.

The meaning used in the HTV includes all of the above, but is particularly an extension of the third option. It recognises there is a body of science that has developed to better understand the behaviour of such systems.

The resources below may help to consolidate your understanding of systems thinking.