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Systems Thinking in Public Health

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Become familiar with systems thinking through this self-paced video series, An Introduction to Systems Thinking in Public Health; Complex Public Health Issues; and Leveraging Systems Thinking Tools for Public Health Practice.
**Instructions to access the modules will be provided after you register.**
Part 1: An Introduction to Systems Thinking in Public Health
Part 1 provides an introduction to systems thinking and its utility to public health and policy planning. It begins by differentiating between different types of systems before focusing specifically on complex systems, and the relevance of these concepts to the design of public health interventions. This course also introduces group model building, an approach that provides a structured basis for eliciting and synthesizing diverse stakeholder perspectives on the structure and functioning of systems. Students will also learn about the language and notation of systems thinking and will have the opportunity to test their understanding by developing a simple causal loop diagram.
Length: 24 minutes
Learning Objectives
At the conclusion of Part 1, participants will be able to:

  • differentiate between different types of systems
  • define and explain the key characteristics of a complex system
  • describe the importance of systems thinking within public health
  • recognize when group model building can be used to enrich understanding within public health
  • use the language and notation of systems thinking
  • develop a simple causal loop diagram

Instructor
Ivana Stankov, PhD is a Senior Research Scientist at the Urban Health Collaborative, Dornsife School of Public Health, at Drexel University. Her research focuses on understanding the social and environmental determinants of health and disease using complex systems methods. Stankov employs participatory methods, including concept mapping and group model building to identify and understand how food and transport systems impact health in cities. She is actively involved in research that employs simulation-based methods, including agent-based modelling, to understand place-health relations and explore the effectiveness of policy-relevant interventions on health-related behavior and mental health outcomes. She is also involved in research examining the role of peer and romantic partner influences on adolescent substance use. 

Part 2: Three Useful Tools for Exploring Complex Public Health Issues
Part 2 explores complex systems models and examines their relevance in understanding and helping solve complex public health problems. Students will learn about the kinds of real-world systems that can be and has been studied using complex systems models. The course will briefly describe three simulation models commonly used in public health, namely agent-based models, social network analysis, and systems dynamic modeling, along with some relevant examples of their uses. Students will also get a chance to preview and use a free software (NetLogo) to run a basic agent-based model to familiarize themselves with the software.
Length: 20 minutes
Learning Objectives
At the conclusion of Part 2, participants will be able to:

  • describe a complex systems model and why it is a useful tool for public health
  • list the key characteristics of three types of models used to explore complex systems within public health – agent-based modeling, social network analysis, and systems dynamics modeling
  • use existing agent-based models in NetLogo software

Instructor
Rennie Joshi, MPH is a second-year doctoral student of Epidemiology at the Dornsife School of Public Health and a doctoral fellow at the Urban Health Collaborative at Drexel University. She received her MPH in Biostatistics and Epidemiology from Drexel University. Her research focuses on the social and built environmental determinants of chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular health. She is interested in utilizing novel research methods to better understand the effects of various environmental risk factors, such as food environments, air pollution, and safety on cardiovascular health. She is currently exploring complex systems simulation methods to understand the effects of different policy interventions on ambient air pollution and its public health consequences. 

Part 3: Leveraging Systems Thinking Tools for Public Health Practice
Part 3 focuses on the use of systems thinking tools in clinical and public health settings. Participants will be exposed to PARTNER (a social network analysis tool) and FRED (an agent-based modeling tool) through interactive demonstrations. Real world examples of the use of systems thinking tools to engage policymakers and clinical stakeholders will be discussed.
Length: 22 minutes
Learning Objectives
At the conclusion of Part 3, participants will be able to:

  • define the use of systems thinking tools in clinical and public health settings
  • cite existing systems thinking tools developed for public health applications
  • identify potential challenges to applying systems thinking tools in clinical and public health settings
  • describe how systems thinking tools can be used to engage policymakers and promote the development of evidence-based policy

Instructor
Katie Nelson, MPH is a second-year doctoral student of Health Services Research and Policy at the Dornsife School of Public Health and a doctoral research fellow at the Urban Health Collaborative at Drexel University. She received her MPH in Health Management and Policy from Drexel University. She works on the MINDMAP project funded through the Welcome Trust that uses systems science to determine the impact of public policies on depression in older adults living in urban areas. Her broader research focuses on using public policy to improve the behavioral health of vulnerable populations at local, state, and federal levels. 
Target Audience
This presentation is appropriate for public health professionals in health departments, community based organizations, and academic institutions.
Level
This training is appropriate for those with no, basic, or intermediate levels of experience with systems thinking.
Technology Requirements
This recorded video series is presented on Vimeo Internet-based platform. A computer with high-speed internet connection and the ability to download and run this platform is required.
Continuing Education Credits
Continuing education credits are not offered for this training.
Creation Date
This training was created in September 2019.
For more information about this course, contact Jen Kolker at jak682@drexel.edu. For assistance with registration, contact marphtc@pitt.edu.