Background: The literature on whole of system approaches (WSAs) has been largely theoretical in focus. The Australian Systems Approaches to Physical Activity is a national project designed to contribute a practical implementation focus to such approaches at the population level. Methods: National meetings were convened with federal and state government sector stakeholders to identify physical activity (PA) related policies and programs. Policies and programs were audited to develop an understanding of the existing PA system. A WSA conceptual map for PA was developed using feedback from system stakeholders, existing WSAs, and related work in obesity. Results: Completion of the policy audit has revealed key areas of need regarding policy governance, coordination, financing, and evaluation. An initial WSA conceptual map for Australia has been developed incorporating governance, translation, and advocacy. Stakeholder co-production of an integrated framework for PA and design plans for a community of practice knowledge hub has commenced. Conclusions: In Australia, Australian Systems Approaches to Physical Activity project partners have developed a conceptual whole of systems map that is guiding progress beyond the theoretical to application in the real world: a national PA policy audit, co-production of an integrated PA policy framework, and planning for a PA community of practice knowledge hub.
William Bellew, Ben J. Smith, Tracy Nau, Karen Lee, Lindsey Reece and Adrian Bauman
Tracy Nau, Karen Lee, Ben J. Smith, William Bellew, Lindsey Reece, Peter Gelius, Harry Rutter and Adrian Bauman
Background: The value of a systems thinking approach to tackling population physical inactivity is increasingly recognized. This study used conceptual systems thinking to develop a cognitive map for physical activity (PA) influences and intervention points, which informed a standardized approach to the coding and notation of PA-related policies in Australia. Methods: Policies were identified through desktop searches and input from 33 nominated government representatives attending 2 national PA policy workshops. Documents were audited using predefined criteria spanning policy development, strategic approaches to PA, implementation processes, and evaluation. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Results: The audit included 110 policies, mainly led by the health or planning/infrastructure sectors (n = 54, 49%). Most policies purporting to promote PA did so as a cobenefit of another objective that was not focused on PA (n = 63, 57%). An intention to monitor progress was indicated in most (n = 94, 85%); however, fewer than half (n = 52, 47%) contained evaluable goals/actions relevant to PA. Descriptions of resourcing/funding arrangements were generally absent or lacked specific commitment (n = 67, 61%). Conclusions: This study describes current PA-relevant policy in Australia and identifies opportunities for improving coordination, implementation, and evaluation to strengthen a whole-of-system and cross-agency approach to increasing population PA.