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Applying Systems Thinking to Obesity Prevention


Summer Inst. term
Health Behavior and Society
2 credits
Academic Year:
2021 - 2022
Instruction Method:
Synchronous Online with Some Asynchronous Online
Mon 06/28/2021 - Fri 07/02/2021
Class Times:
  • M Tu W Th F,  8:30am - 12:20pm
Auditors Allowed:
Undergrads Allowed:
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructor:
Anne Palmer

Obesity is recognized as a complex public health problem and best understood by using systems thinking to address the issue. What do we mean by using systems thinking? Learn more about how systems science, thinking and approaches can be applied to prevent and reduce obesity rates.

Given the complexity of many public health problems, systems thinking is increasingly cited as an approach and competency needed to understand these problems. The field of obesity in particular has benefited from systems thinking, methods and modeling, however, the application of these methods remains in an inchoate stage. Students will explore various systems concepts such as leverage points, heterogeneity, complexity, adaptability, interdependence, and learn how those concepts have been applied in obesity and food system research. Students will learn which systems concepts are most useful for researching specific obesity topics and their limitations. Finally, students will explore how systems research concepts and models critically appraised and communicated with others so public health policy makers can exercise a greater degree of wisdom and insight.

Learning Objectives:

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

  1. Describe the origins of systems science, systems thinking, and systems approaches
  2. Identify characteristics of a system and major models (e.g. agent-based modeling, systems dynamics, social network) used to map variables related to obesity
  3. Explain the systems concepts, approaches and methods that are being used for obesity prevention and other public health issues
  4. Apply basic systems approaches to obesity development and prevention
Methods of Assessment:

This course is evaluated as follows:

  • 10% Participation
  • 30% Reflection
  • 30% Quizzes
  • 30% Final Paper

Instructor Consent:

No consent required

Jointly Offered With: