Virtual Population Obesity Prevention (VPOP) Labs
Project Lead: Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA
Simulation modeling has transformed many professions and industries such as transportation, air traffic control, meteorology, and manufacturing. For example, the ‘live’ weather maps frequently shown on television are simulation models that combine and synthesize information from many different types of data from sources such as air, land, and water temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction and cloud patterns.
For obesity prevention and control, simulation models can serve as “Virtual Population Laboratories” (VPOP Labs) for decision makers in a community, city or region to:
- Determine the factors and relationships that may be leading to obesity
- Forecast future scenarios and impact
- Design and plan obesity-related policies and interventions
- Assess the potential impact of policies or interventions, including their potential secondary and tertiary effects and unintended consequences
- Guide and prioritize data collection by identifying data gaps and demonstrating the effects of having better information
Breaking New Grounds: Obesity results from and involves a complex system of policy, economic, environmental, social, cultural, behavioral, and biological factors and relationships. More traditional studies alone may not fully capture and characterize the complex factors and interactions in a community, city or region. Virtual laboratories can save considerable time, effort, and resources by allowing decision makers and researchers to first test hypothetical interventions and policies in the safety of a computer.
To develop suites of simulation models of communities, cities, and regions that allow decision makers and stakeholders (e.g., policy makers, funders, public health officials, school officials, and business professionals) to design and test various obesity prevention measures, policies and interventions.
The VPOP team collaborates with experts from a range of disciplines and sectors:
- Behavioral sciences
- Medical anthropology
- Environmental health
- Weight management
- Health policy