This is a six-part seminar series with a focus on complexity-informed methods that may help evaluate population health interventions (PHIs).
Some of the questions that are important in population health are ‘should we do more of this or more of that?’ or ‘how can we optimize the benefits while minimizing the harms of a certain intervention?’ (Ogilvie et al., 2019). We are also interested in ‘did it work?’ questions, but these seem to only get us part of the way towards being able to make policy-relevant recommendations.
Perhaps part of the answer is that we may need a broader range of methods to help understand how and why an intervention did or did not make a difference and to assess: ‘what happened?’, ‘what may happen in a different setting?’, and ultimately, ‘what should we recommend in a given setting?’(Joyce and Cartwright, 2019; Ogilvie et al., 2020; Rutter et al., 2017).
The methods and ideas covered in this series draw on a range of disciplines (e.g. political science, philosophy, systems science) and may offer some potential ways forward. Discussing their various strengths and limitations may also guide method selection and help to build a community of practice.
For enquiries about this series or to register to attend future sessions, please contact Miriam Alvarado Miriam.Alvarado@mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk
Session 1: Challenges in evaluating population health interventions and reflections across settings
- Prof. Karen Hofman, Priority Cost Effective Lessons for Systems Strengthening SA, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
- Dr. Jean Adams, MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
- Dr. Madhuvanti Murphy, George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre (GACDRC), University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados
Session 2: Process tracing: What it is and how to use it?
Prof. Andrew Bennett, Georgetown University, Washington D.C., USA
Session 3: Qualitative Comparative Analysis: What it is and how to use it?
- Dr. Heather Kane, RTI International, North Carolina, USA
- Dr. Leila Kahwati, RTI International, North Carolina, USA
Sorry, this session is not available online. Please contact Miriam Alvarado – Miriam.Alvarado@mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk – if you have questions about this session.
Session 4: Systems thinking in practice – 4 May 2022 – 14.00UK (BST)
Prof. Eric Wolstenholme, Symmetric Partnership, UK
Session 5: When well-defined interventions aren’t enough: from causal inference to complexity
Prof. Alex Broadbent, Durham University, Durham, UK
ABSTRACT: It has been extensively argued that, in order to inform population health interventions, causal effect estimates need to be framed in terms of a hypothetical intervention. Merely estimating how much of a certain outcome is “attributable” to a certain exposure won’t do, because it tells us nothing about the effect of interventions on that exposure. The focus of this line of argument is that a well-defined intervention is necessary for designing a policy intervention. In this talk, I will ask whether it is sufficient merely to quantify the effect of an intervention. Ongoing work by Alvorado and colleagues seeks to understand how taxes on sugar sweetened beverages may be improved. These are actual interventions and quantifying their effects is achievable. Yet this leaves the improvement question unanswered. I argue that this is because (a) the standard causal inference framework treats interventions as black boxes and (b) effectively as binaries, despite taking numerical values for variables. I conclude with some thoughts about how this frames methodological efforts to answer questions such as the one about how to improve SSB taxation.
Session 6: System Dynamics in Practice: Developing and Appraising Feedback Theories of Social Dynamics – 27 October 2022 – 13.00UK (BST)
Prof. Peter Hovmand, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, US
Session 7: Reflections & way forward – TBC
Dr. Miriam Alvarado & panel TBC