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Strengthening prevention in communities through systems change: Lessons from the evaluation of Healthy Families NZ.

Abstract

This article presents the findings from the first 3 years of the evaluation of Healthy Families NZ, a systems-change intervention to prevent chronic diseases in 10 communities. The initiative, which builds on existing prevention activities, aims to strengthen the health prevention system through evidence-driven action to enable people to make good food choices, be physically active, smoke-free and free from alcohol-related harm. Key investment areas are a dedicated systems thinking and acting health promotion workforce, and activating leaders who can influence transformational change. The evaluation to date has found the initiative is being implemented with integrity. Evidence indicates a shift towards greater action on prevention, and the prevention system being strengthened. Māori ownership has been enabled, and prioritizing equity has led teams to utilize methods that amplify diverse local perspectives. There is progress on developing a flexible workforce through adaptive learning, flexible resources, professional development and a responsive National team. There is also progress in activating local leadership and empowering local teams. The initiative design has explicitly taken into account the context of complexity within which it is being implemented. It has evolved to focus on action that can accelerate sharing information and practices within communities, and between policy and decision-makers. Healthy Families NZ and its evaluation have been refunded to 2022. This provides an important opportunity to gather further insight into effective ways to strengthen the community agency and trust needed to promote and deliver evidence-based action on prevention.

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