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Course Catalog

340.738.11 Complex Systems and Obesity in Human Populations


Summer Inst. term
2 credits
Academic Year:
2017 - 2018
East Baltimore
Class Times:
  • M Tu W Th F,  1:30 - 5:00pm
Auditors Allowed:
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Ayesha Khan
Course Instructor :
  • Thomas A. Glass

Introduce students to tools of theory building and data analysis in systems science to understand the obesity epidemic in human populations. Taught as seminar with emphasis on reading and discussion of key papers; also a mini-lab component in which students will build a simple model of food acquisition behavior using agent-based modeling on standard software (Vensim, PLE). Key aim is to examine the obesity epidemic at a population level as an emergent properties of complex, nested systems, with attention to feedback processes, sensitivity to initial conditions, and complex temporal dynamics. Will explore how approach can be applied to other non-communicable diseases both nationally and internationally. Topics : a) the epidemiology of obesity across time and place, b) theories for population obesity, c) basic concepts and tools of systems science, d) modeling biology in context, e) agent-based and systems dynamic models, f) use of systems tools for evaluation of policy

Learning Objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Summarize current knowledge on the epidemiology of obesity across the life course and in different countries
  2. Review and critique major explanatory frameworks on the obesity epidemic including cultural factors, pricing and economic factors, globalization of food production, advertising and media, and environmental determinants
  3. Characterize food production and delivery systems
  4. Review potential use of agent based models for evaluation of potential policy solutions to combat obesity
Methods of Assessment:

Lab write up and a final exam

Instructor Consent:

No consent required

Special Comments:

Can be taken in combination with Epi of Diabetes and Obesity (340.644).