Biggest Bang

At the Modeling for Public Health Action conference, the first plenary panel discussion on Friday morning had the title “Biggest Bang: Public Health Domains that Could Most Benefit from Modeling and Simulation Research.” The speakers included Rear Admiral Stephen B. Thacker, Dr. Irene Eckstrand (DHS), Dr. Donald Burke (University of Pittsburgh), and Professor Stephen Eubank (Virginia Tech).

Thacker discussed different measures that can be used to make decisions, including mortality, disability-adjusted life year (DALY), cost, hospital days, years of potential life lost (YPLL). Optimizing different measures leads to different decisions.

Eckstrand emphasized the role of modeling to answering the questions: “If I do this, what will happen? Under what conditions will something happen?” and highlighted the need to model social interactions not only of disease transmission but also of information sharing.

Burke reviewed the models developed at the Public Health Dynamics Lab, including large-scale agent-based simulation models that require supercomputers, and a recent workshop on Systems Thinking In Public Health.

Eubank is a Professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and is a leader of the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory, which (according to its web site) “designs, develops and implements simulation tools to understand large biological, information, social, and technological systems.”

Modeling hub proposal

Just got back from the 2010 Modeling for Public Health Action conference in Atlanta. A very nice program with lots of interesting speakers and discussion.

Among them was a proposal by Sally Phillips, Jennifer Olsen, and Amy Kircher for a modeling hub that would serve as liaisons and translators between the senior decision-makers and the modeling community. In times of crisis, the hub would ask questions and translate the results. Otherwise, they would help evaluate and maintain models.

The discussion focused on the use of extremely sophisticated models (including large-scale simulations) for helping the most senior leaders make decisions. Of course, there are a wide variety of models and decision-makers, and I would propose that decision-makers should sometimes build and use their own models.

Lots more to discuss about the conference.