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Using group model building to frame the commercial determinants of dietary behaviour in adolescence - proposed methods for online system mapping workshops.

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Chavez-Ugalde, Yanaina  ORCID logo
Toumpakari, Zoi 
De Vocht, Frank 
Jago, Russell 


BACKGROUND: Group model building (GMB) is a participatory approach whereby diverse stakeholders can share their views about a problem to create a collective understanding of a complex system. In this article we report our methodological approach to adapt face-to-face GMB processes to an online format to explore the mechanisms by which commercial drivers influence adolescents' dietary behaviour. We use our experiences to make recommendations on how online GMB could be delivered. METHODS: We planned, adapted, piloted, delivered, and evaluated a series of online GMB workshops with adolescents, policymakers and public health practitioners to create a system map of the commercial determinants of dietary behaviour in adolescence. We adapted face-to-face GMB workshops to a series of 3 online GMB workshops with 11 adolescents (16-18 years) living in the Southwest of England, and one GMB workshop with policymakers and public health practitioners. RESULTS: In our experience, adapting, and delivering GMB online is feasible, engaging, cost-saving and an enjoyable experience. Participants gave positive feedback in terms of engagement and enjoyment, and it allowed them to recognise different points of view about the same problem. Participants became familiarised with system thinking and system dynamics concepts, developed a shared understanding of a complex issue and portrayed it in a system map that depicted the most important factors in a causal structure as well as their interactions at various levels. CONCLUSIONS: We recommend using process mapping to understand the overall GMB process in an online environment and piloting the workshops to test the timings and flow between online platforms. For facilitation and delivery, facilitators need to ensure they can create an inviting and engaging online environment, even for participants who decide to have their cameras off. Separating GMB activities into different workshops allowed participants to reflect on the problem being discussed and bring new ideas to subsequent workshops. Evaluating the workshops enabled us to build evidence on the trade-offs between the effectiveness, quality and efficiency of online GMB workshops, and how this might be enhanced to identify leverage points and achieve systemic changes in complex issues. ETHICAL APPROVAL: The research was approved by the University of Bristol's Faculty of Health Sciences Research Ethics Committee (Ref: 99,003) and written consent was received from all participants.



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BMC Med Res Methodol

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
MRC (MC_UU_00006/7)
This study was part of a PhD studentship funded by the NIHR School for Public Health Research (Grant Reference Number PD-SPH-2015). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care. The funder had no input in the writing of the manuscript or decision to submit for publication. The NIHR School for Public Health Research is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield; Bristol; Cambridge; Imperial; and University College London; The London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM); LiLaC – a collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool and Lancaster; and Fuse - The Centre for Translational Research in Public Health a collaboration between Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside Universities. FDV and RJ are partly funded by the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration West (NIHR ARC West) at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Bristol. YCU is co-funded by CoNaCyT (National Council for Science and Technology - Mexico). MW is supported by funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to the MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge [grant number MC/UU/00006/7].