Even Storm Brenda didn’t blow early adopters off course

28 January 2020

It was wild January weather in North Ayrshire – the trains were off and all ferries were cancelled, but that couldn’t stop the first systems mapping workshop. 


A room full of around 30 enthusiastic, professional stakeholders from across services in North Ayrshire, from business development to planning and sport and leisure, gathered to discuss the challenge faced locally with overweight and obesity, and how systems thinking could help solve it.


The workshop was ably led by Leeds Beckett University who drew on all of their experience gathered through undertaking the whole systems approach with local authorities in England, on behalf of Public Health England.


The local lead for this programme of work, Ruth Campbell, set the scene by highlighting the particular challenge faced by North Ayrshire due to having higher adult rates of overweight and obesity than the national average.  Conversations then flowed, and the challenge of mapping the influences on maintaining a healthy weight began. It’s not an easy process, but it is definitely inclusive and worthwhile,  providing an opportunity for clear engagement across services on key issues.  This is just the beginning of the process in North Ayrshire, so watch this space for more information.


In other developments…


The early adopters for the whole systems approach span 8 local authorities:  North Ayrshire, Dundee and those within the NHS’ East Region (i.e. Edinburgh, East Lothian, West Lothian, Mid Lothian, Borders and Fife). Their task is to apply systems thinking to the local challenge of obesity and to create long term change in how local services operate, in order to harness their potential to tackle obesity.  Each area will determine the scale and focus of their work and will be supported by national partners including the Public Health Reform, Diet and Healthy Weight teams of Scottish Government, Health Scotland (soon to be Public Health Scotland), Food Standards Scotland and Obesity Action Scotland.


All of the early adopters are at different stages, but key to their success is a knowledge and understanding of systems thinking and systems mapping.  Training workshops have therefore started for the personnel across Scotland who will lead this work in their local area.


The collaboration between national partners and local leads on this work is another indication of the real desire to do things differently and to make progress on this issue. 


Whilst the whole system early adopters programme is only one of a number of measures that will need to be implemented to achieve real, long lasting change, it is a significant one and all signs so far are that it can weather any storm!