Situating Agent-Based Modelling in Population Health Research

Eric Silverman, Umberto Gostoli, Stefano Picascia, Jonatan Almagor, Mark McCann, Richard Shaw, Claudio Angione

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Abstract

Today’s most troublesome population health challenges are often driven by social
and environmental determinants, which are difficult to model using traditional
epidemiological methods. We agree with those who have argued for the wider
adoption of agent-based modelling (ABM) in taking on these challenges.
However, while ABM has been used occasionally in population health, we argue
that for ABM to be most effective in the field it should be used as a means for
answering questions normally inaccessible to the traditional epidemiological
toolkit. In an effort to clearly illustrate the utility of ABM for population health
research, and to clear up persistent misunderstandings regarding the method’s
conceptual underpinnings, we offer a detailed presentation of the core concepts of
complex systems theory, and summarise why simulations are essential to the
study of complex systems. We then examine the current state of the art in ABM
for population health, and propose they are well-suited for the study of the
‘wicked’ problems in population health, and could make significant contributions
to theory and intervention development in these areas
Original languageEnglish
JournalEmerging Themes in Epidemiology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 23 Jul 2021

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