Public Health Scotland (PHS) has led a process evaluation of a Whole Systems Approach (WSA) to diet and healthy weight.

The Scottish Government’s Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan aims to halve childhood obesity and significantly reduce diet-related health inequalities.

Defining a Whole Systems Approach

To realise Scotland’s public health priorities we need to work more effectively together as part of a WSA. This can be defined as applying systems thinking and tools that enable an ongoing, flexible approach by a broad-range of stakeholders to identify and understand current and emerging public health issues.

A WSA works with communities and stakeholders to understand the problem and support identification and testing of solutions. System change is a long-term project. It is delivered through small steps and in collaboration with multiple partners.

In partnership with Scottish Government, Food Standards Scotland and Obesity Action Scotland, PHS supported local areas, known as "early adopters", to pilot a WSA to diet and healthy weight. This focused on children and health inequalities.

The early adopter areas agreed to:

  • identify programme leads and senior sponsorship from both local government and NHS Boards
  • identify and agree a local problem to address and work in collaboration with other local partners to test a WSA locally

Process evaluation

The local areas included in this evaluation are:

  • Aberdeenshire (Aberdeenshire was not a part of the WSA early adopter programme, but are implementing WSA locally)
  • Dumfries and Galloway
  • Dundee
  • East Lothian
  • Fife
  • North Ayrshire
  • Scottish Borders

This process evaluation sets out the context and methodology of the WSA to diet and healthy weight. It assesses the strengths and limitations of the approach.

The evaluation makes key recommendations for national and local partners. This will inform future action. 

The evaluation includes stand-alone case studies for each area. They provide a detailed account of implementation, highlighting learning and local recommendations. 

For more information read the report and case studies.


Last updated: 11 March 2024
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