Systems Perspectives on Prevention of Chronic Disease

Research on better prevention and management of chronic disease increasingly refers to systems and systems change. However, systems research seems to have different meanings for different researchers. It can mean the health system capacity for prevention, or broader systems such as food generation, processing and marketing, or political systems. It is also used in describing a way of thinking about problem solution. All of these are useful in different circumstances. More pragmatically, however, researchers need to understand the processes of policy decision-making and the role of evidence to help frame research questions and results in ways that are more likely to be heard. Systems mapping is one tool that may assist in that. Other critical elements include understanding the political dimensions, opportunities, partnerships, human resource requirements and effective communication. All of these should be part of the public health research agenda. Better prevention is rarely an overnight happening but it does happen!