273309 Emerging GIS and modeling methods to improve understanding of childhood obesity

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 9:10 AM - 9:30 AM

Liora Sahar, PhD , Civil Systems Division / Public Health, Northrop Grumman, Atanta, GA
Jay V. Schindler, MPH PhD , Public Health Division, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Atlanta, GA
Background: Many public health problems today are complex and self-sustaining, resisting change efforts. More realistic, system dynamic simulations and predictive models can support a better understanding of public health phenomena and disease processes. Objective/purpose: To integrate and develop a comprehensive, synergistic framework of Geospatial technologies with Agent-Based Modeling methodologies (ABM) for addressing and exploring public health challenges existing in complex environments (e.g., childhood obesity).

Methods: We integrate Geospatial technologies into an ABM framework that stretches the problem-solving capabilities of each approach within the content domain (here, the nutrition of adolescents). This approach not only considers the major agents that interact and influence each other (e.g., peers), but also incorporates environmental factors and relationships (e.g., neighborhood candy store proximity to schools, distance children walked). This approach introduces realistic environmental GIS layers into the modeling/simulation experiment, providing “exposure hazards” to agents as they traverse the terrain, while the ABM allows each person to have their own behaviors and programmed responses.

Results: The researchers layered road/street maps and home, school building, and store locations into an ABM model of children walking between school and home. Children encountered corner candy stores (hazard exposure) and the behaviors of peers. The impact these stores have on excessive empty calorie consumption and the nutritional health of adolescents is significant in the model. Variables such as the location of the store along the path and proximity to schools were found to play a significant role in impacting the increased consumption of “empty calories.” Discussion /Conclusions Integrating technologies like GIS and ABM stimulate opportunities for examining public health practices and policies in silico, testing possible outcomes in a more cost-effective manner. We will discuss the ABM platform and the challenges and recommendations for researchers exploring this integrative research approach.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the benefits and challenges of integrating Geospatial Information Systems and Agent Based Methodologies for public health policy decision-makers. Identify best practices for developing a GIS – ABM integrated research environment. List at least 3 factors influencing the nutritional health of children as they walk to school.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have the training, education and experience related to the implementation of geospatial techniques and methodologies to solving complex problems, including the development of geospatial models within the PH domain.
Any relevant financial relationships? Yes

Name of Organization Clinical/Research Area Type of relationship
Northrop Grumman Information Services Employment (includes retainer)

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.