Readiness of communities to engage with childhood obesity prevention initiatives in disadvantaged areas of Victoria, Australia

Sheila Cyril, Michael Polonsky, Julie Green, Kingsley Agho, Andre Renzaho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Objective Disadvantaged communities bear a disproportionate burden of childhood obesity and show low participation in childhood obesity prevention initiatives. This study aims to examine the level of readiness of disadvantaged communities to engage with childhood obesity prevention initiatives. Methods Using the community readiness model, 95 semi-structured interviews were conducted among communities in four disadvantaged areas of Victoria, Australia. Community readiness analysis and paired t-tests were performed to assess the readiness levels of disadvantaged communities to engage with childhood obesity prevention initiatives. Results The results showed that disadvantaged communities demonstrated low levels of readiness (readiness score≤4/9, 44%) to engage with the existing childhood obesity prevention initiatives, lacked knowledge of childhood obesity and its prevention, and reported facing challenges in initiating and sustaining participation in obesity prevention initiatives. Conclusion This study highlights the need to improve community readiness by addressing low obesity-related literacy levels among disadvantaged communities and by facilitating the capacity-building of bicultural workers to deliver obesity prevention messages to these communities. Integrating these needs into existing Australian health policy and practice is of paramount importance for reducing obesity-related disparities currently prevailing in Australia. What is known about the topic? Childhood obesity prevalence is plateauing in developed countries including Australia; however, obesity-related inequalities continue to exist in Australia especially among communities living in disadvantaged areas, which experience poor engagement in childhood obesity prevention initiatives. Studies in the USA have found that assessing disadvantaged communities' readiness to participate in health programs is a critical initial step in reducing the disproportionate obesity burden among these communities. However, no studies in Australia have assessed disadvantaged communities' readiness to engage in obesity prevention initiatives. What does this paper add? This paper addresses the current gap in the knowledge of disadvantaged communities' level of readiness to engage in childhood obesity prevention initiatives in Australia. The study also identified the key factors responsible for low readiness of disadvantaged communities to participate in current childhood obesity prevention services. By using the Community Readiness model this study shows the readiness levels specific to the various dimensions of the model; Understanding dimension-specific readiness allows us to identify strategies that are tailored to each dimension, as guided by the model. What are the implications for practitioners? With the increasing burden of childhood obesity on disadvantaged communities, policymakers and health practitioners are facing a crisis in obesity prevention and management. Almost every year, new interventions are being planned and implemented. However if the target communities are not ready to participate in the available interventions these efforts are futile. This study exposes the key factors responsible for low readiness to participate in current obesity prevention services by disadvantaged communities. Addressing these key factors and improving readiness before designing new interventions will improve the participation of disadvantaged communities in those interventions. The study findings ultimately have the potential of reducing obesity-related disparities in Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-307
Number of pages11
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • community readiness
  • disparities
  • inequalities

Cite this