Reframing childhood obesity: The role of local communities in change implementation failure

James M Vardaman, John Amis, Paul M Wright, Ben Dyson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Childhood obesity remains one of the defining challenges of our time, with government response around the world being largely ineffective. This has been particularly the case in the US, which continues to suffer high rates of childhood obesity despite numerous legislative interventions to combat it. In order to develop insight into this ongoing catastrophic change failure, we engaged in a three-year qualitative study of the implementation of policies in the US designed to reduce childhood obesity through school-based interventions. We found that leaders in schools, as in many organizations, were faced with numerous, often conflicting, pressures from federal, state and local community stakeholders. The resultant ambivalence led to change failure being reframed as success to in order to fit with locally-expressed priorities. In bringing light to an understudied aspect of change implementation, local community pressure, we further theoretical understanding of why large change interventions often fail. We also offer insights more generally into the (re)framing of change and the influence of local communities on organizations. Policy and managerial implications are also discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
JournalHuman Relations
Early online date9 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jan 2020


  • ambivalence
  • change implementation
  • community
  • framing
  • leaders


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