Systems thinking tools as applied to community-based participatory research: a case study

Health Educ Behav. 2012 Dec;39(6):745-51. doi: 10.1177/1090198111430708. Epub 2012 Mar 30.


Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is being used increasingly to address health disparities and complex health issues. The authors propose that CBPR can benefit from a systems science framework to represent the complex and dynamic characteristics of a community and identify intervention points and potential "tipping points." Systems science refers to a field of study that posits a holistic framework that is focused on component parts of a system in the context of relationships with each other and with other systems. Systems thinking tools can assist in intervention planning by allowing all CBPR stakeholders to visualize how community factors are interrelated and by potentially identifying the most salient intervention points. To demonstrate the potential utility of systems science tools in CBPR, the authors show the use of causal loop diagrams by a community coalition engaged in CBPR activities regarding youth drinking reduction and prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Community-Based Participatory Research / methods*
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Social Environment
  • Systems Theory*