System dynamics modeling for public health: background and opportunities

Am J Public Health. 2006 Mar;96(3):452-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2005.062059. Epub 2006 Jan 31.


The systems modeling methodology of system dynamics is well suited to address the dynamic complexity that characterizes many public health issues. The system dynamics approach involves the development of computer simulation models that portray processes of accumulation and feedback and that may be tested systematically to find effective policies for overcoming policy resistance. System dynamics modeling of chronic disease prevention should seek to incorporate all the basic elements of a modern ecological approach, including disease outcomes, health and risk behaviors, environmental factors, and health-related resources and delivery systems. System dynamics shows promise as a means of modeling multiple interacting diseases and risks, the interaction of delivery systems and diseased populations, and matters of national and state policy.

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Preventive Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Public Health Administration*
  • Systems Theory*
  • United States