Document Type




Format of Original

5 p.

Publication Date

Summer 2015


Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

Source Publication

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

DOI: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000219


Background: Despite increased attention, conventional views of obesity are based upon individual behaviors, and children and parents living with obesity are assumed to be the primary problem solvers. Instead of focusing exclusively on individual reduction behaviors for childhood obesity, greater focus should be placed on better understanding existing community systems and their effects on obesity. The Milwaukee Childhood Obesity Prevention Project is a community-based coalition established to develop policy and environmental change strategies to impact childhood obesity in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The coalition conducted a Group Model Building exercise to better understand root causes of childhood obesity in its community.

Methods: Group Model Building is a process by which a group systematically engages in model construction to better understand the systems that are in place. It helps participants make their mental models explicit through a careful and consistent process to test assumptions. This process has 3 main components: (1) assembling a team of participants; (2) conducting a behavior-over-time graphs exercise; and (3) drawing the causal loop diagram exercise.

Results: The behavior-over-time graph portion produced 61 graphs in 10 categories. The causal loop diagram yielded 5 major themes and 7 subthemes.

Conclusions: Factors that influence childhood obesity are varied, and it is important to recognize that no single solution exists. The perspectives from this exercise provided a means to create a process for dialogue and commitment by stakeholders and partnerships to build capacity for change within the community.


Accepted version. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, Vol. 21, Suppl. 3 (Summer 2015): S74-S78. DOI. © 2015 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.Used with permission.

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