Poverty and InequalitySexual and Reproductive HealthFamily, Maternal & Child HealthMethodology

Modeling social norms and social influence in obesity

TitleModeling social norms and social influence in obesity
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsShoham, DA, Hammond, R, Rahmandad, H, Wang, Y, Hovmand, P
JournalCurr Epidemiol Rep
Date PublishedMar 1
ISBN Number2196-2995 (Print)
Accession Number26576335
Keywordsagent-based modeling, Health Policy, norms, Obesity, Social epidemiology, social influence, social network analysis, system dynamics modeling

The worldwide increase in obesity has led to changes in what is considered "normal" or desirable weight, especially among populations at higher risk. We show that social norms are key to understanding the obesity epidemic, and that social influence mechanisms provide a necessary linkage between individual obesity-related behaviors and population-level characteristics. Because influence mechanisms cannot be directly observed, we show how three complex systems tools may be used to gain insights into observed epidemiologic patterns: social network analysis, agent-based modeling, and systems dynamics modeling. However, simulation and mathematical modeling approaches raise questions regarding acceptance of findings, especially among policy makers. Nevertheless, we point to modeling successes in obesity and other fields, including the NIH-funded National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) Envison project.