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Beyond behaviour change"Key issues, interdisciplinary approaches and future directions"$
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Fiona Spotswood

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781447317555

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447317555.001.0001

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The emergence of systems thinking in behaviour change: a public health focus

The emergence of systems thinking in behaviour change: a public health focus

(p.257) Thirteen The emergence of systems thinking in behaviour change: a public health focus
Beyond behaviour change

Esther Trenchard-Mabere

Policy Press

Simple or ‘complicated’ systems that display linear, predictable behaviours are contrasted with complex systems characterised by ‘emergent properties’ arising from inter-relationships between parts, feedback loops and sometimes unexpected effects arising from changes in other parts of the system. Particular characteristics of complex social systems and learning from change processes in complex social systems are described. The relevance of systems thinking to epidemiology, public health research and ‘evidence’ is noted including the importance of recognising wider context, the relationship between knowledge and uncertainty and development of new methodologies. It is noted that approaches to public health such as socio-ecological, community development and policy, regulation and ‘whole organisation’ approaches show some features of systemic approaches but that this is not always explicit or consistent. Opportunities and barriers to further development of systemic approaches to public health in the new organisational arrangements for public health in England are highlighted.

Keywords:   Emergent properties, Systemic approaches, Public health

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