ABOVE (From left): Cédric Middel, Tari Forrester-Bowling, Josine Stuber, Miranda Blake and Joreintje Mackenbach during the RE-FRESh researchers’ visit to Amersterdam University Medical Centre in April 2023.
RE-FRESH researchers Dr Tari Forrester-Bowling (post-doctoral Research Fellow) and Dr Miranda Blake (Senior Research Fellow), from Deakin University, were assisted by a RE-FRESH International EMCR Knowledge Exchange Award to present a workshop at the 17th World Congress on Public Health in Rome in early May 2023, as well as poster presentations. They were hosted by the Amsterdam UMC food policy team – they share their experience, in their own words:
Part 1: Invited visit to Amsterdam University Medical Centre (UMC), Amsterdam: 25-26 April 2023:
Our exchange strengthened formal ties for RE-FRESH with Amsterdam UMC, hosted by Dr Joreintje Mackenbach’s team, and provided an important career opportunity for each of us to demonstrate international leadership. Dr Mackenbach is an Associate Investigator on the RE-FRESH follow-up CRE application ‘RE-FRESHING’ (under review). During our three days there, we had the opportunity to present a seminar on RE-FRESH research to Amsterdam UMC and VU Amsterdam food policy teams on ‘Research partnerships for promoting healthy food retail environments’, presented by Miranda; and ‘Assessing the acceptability of group model building and co-creating an adapted method for mental health research’, presented by Tari. We also had the opportunity to meet with Amsterdam UMC ‘Upstream Team’ members; and developed a joint publication with Amsterdam UMC colleagues on “Co-creation approaches to strengthen public health outcomes of healthy food retail policy”, on which Tari will be the senior author. We also had the opportunity to prepare our joint workshop for the World Congress on Public Health in Rome.
Part 2: World Congress on Public Health, Rome: 2-6 May 2023
We attended the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA)’s 17th World Congress on Public Health themed “Opportunities to Focus on the Public’s Health” with more than 3000 public health policymakers, practitioners and researchers.
Our workshop, “Using a Systems Thinking Approach to Support Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems”, was led by Tari and Miranda, with facilitators from RE-FRESH (Carmen Vargas and Tiana Felmingham), and Amsterdam UMC (Drs Joreintje Mackenbach and Cédric Middel) (workshop team pictured). The workshops built on others previously developed and delivered to researchers and practitioners nationally and internationally, funded by the Institute for Health Transformation and the Australian Prevention Partnership Centre. The workshop was well received by more than 70 participants and was one of the most interactive workshops delivered at the conference. It also provided the opportunity to internationally disseminate and translate the policy and research learnings from the RE-FRESH research output of the ‘Systems Thinking for Retail Transformation’ (‘START map’) (Boelsen-Robinson, Blake et al, Food Policy; 2021;101; 102032).
Above, back from left: Joreintje Mackenbach, Cédric Middel and Tiana Felmingham. Front from left: Tari Forrester-Bowling, Carmen Vargas and Miranda Blake.
In addition to the workshop, Miranda presented two posters showcasing RE-FRESH research: “Food classification guidelines across Australia – concordance and implications of differences” and “Benchmarking local government policies for creating healthy, equitable and environmentally sustainable food systems” (presented on behalf of Oriana Ruffini).
Tari also presented two posters showcasing the diverse application of systems approaches and group model building within public health research: “A systems thinking approach to better understand the causal relationships driving child stunting in the Lao PDR” and “Assessing the acceptability of group model building as a method of engaging people with lived experience of mental ill-health and recovery”.
Above: (Left) Tari Forrester-Bowling and (above right) Miranda Blake present posters at the Congress.
Part 3: Invited visit to Amsterdam University Medical Centre (UMC), Amsterdam: 22-23 May 2023, and Radboud University, Nijmegen: 25-26 May 2023.
Tari had the opportunity to return to The Netherlands from the 22-26 May. On Day 1, Tari worked with Cédric Middel to progress the joint publication on “Co-creation approaches to strengthen public health outcomes of healthy food retail policy”, and worked with Dr Mackenbach on the evaluation of the RE-FRESH “Interactive systems training for healthy food environments” workshops delivered in Nov-Dec 2022 in collaboration with Dr Mackenbach’s team to their academic, health practitioner and civil society network in the Netherlands.
On Day 2, Tari met with Dr Nicole den Braver, a research associate in epidemiology and data science from the Health Behaviours & Chronic Diseases research institute at UMC to provide guidance on a research grant for a qualitative group model building (GMB) project and discuss potential future collaboration opportunities. An additional meeting was held with Assoc Prof Mary Nicolaou, and PhD candidates Naomi de Pooter (Amsterdam UMC) and Isabel Koopmanschap (Vrije universiteit Amsterdam) to further disseminate research learnings on the co-creation process undertaken to adapt GMB to mental health settings, how this could be applied to their LIKE project (Lifestyle Innovations based on youth’s Knowledge and Experience), and the opportunity of a joint publication on shared learnings of adapting group model building.
On the 25th of May, Tari presented “Adapting group model building methods to the context of mental health settings towards the co-design of systemic solutions” to leading systems experts at Radboud Universities Integrated Decision-Making Seminar Series (IDtalk) in Nijmegen. On the 26th Tari met with Ass Prof Merel van der Wal to discuss development and delivery of a workshop translating qualitative to quantitative systems science methods in collaboration with Amsterdam UMC.
We are pleased to bring back our learning to RE-FRESH including:
Understanding how systems thinking concepts are applied in different contexts and common challenges with funding timelines and complexity of retail partnerships.
Significant international interest in the START map and training on how to apply a systems thinking approach to the food retail environment, and adaptation of group model building methods to specific context.
Experience in strengthening partnerships with other institutes, working efficiently with an inter-continental research team, and establishing strong networks for future potential partnerships.
We would like to thank RE-FRESH for this important international development opportunity.