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A Systems-Based Typological Framework for Understanding the Sustainability, Scalability, and Reach of Childhood Obesity Interventions

Terry T.-K. Huang, Brandon Grimm, and Ross A. Hammond


This article proposes a systems-based framework to examine three structural dimensions of childhood obesity interventions that can impact intervention sustainability, scalability, and reach. These three dimensions are the locus of intervention drivers (top-down vs. bottom-up), the locus of change effected (policy vs. individual behavior), and the public versus private sector. Interventions focused on individual behavior change often rely on bottom-up approaches and have generally been less sustainable than policy interventions. However, top-down (government or industry) support can lead to better funding and shifts in social norms. In the public sector, top-down efforts targeting individual behavior are generally also more scalable and have wider reach to diverse communities. In the private sector, behavior-change interventions tend to have greater resources and are sustained over longer periods, even when efficacy is in question; they may also be quite scalable. In a systems approach, a combination of approaches that encompass the structural dimensions in systems space will likely be needed to significantly impact childhood obesity. Next-generation childhood obesity interventions should be able to demonstrate sustainability, scalability, and reach as benchmarks of plausible success and criteria for investment.

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