Systems science in public health is the study of complex systems using methodologies such as social network analysis, agent-based modeling, and system dynamics. In recent years, systems approaches have received increasing attention in public health because more traditional study designs and approaches have yielded limited insights in the context of complex and dynamic systems.
Our director, Douglas Luke, published the first review paper on network analysis in public health in 2007 and the first comprehensive review of systems science methods in 2012. In 2013, Dr. Luke was part of a Washington University team that co-led an NIH-sponsored training institute on systems science methods. He later contributed to a 2014 Institute of Medicine panel that reviewed and reported on agent-based modeling as a strategy for studying tobacco control policies, then gave guidance to the FDA in their tobacco regulatory efforts.
Today, on our Tobacco Town project, we’re using agent-based modeling to study tobacco control policies in ways that are not possible in real-world settings.