Short course: Systems Science & Population Health

Unfortunately the course has been cancelled, but will possibly be rescheduled early 2016, so please let the contact person know if you would like to be notified about the new dates.

A short course in Systems Science & Population Health  will be hosted later this year by the Division of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the University of Cape Town.

This 5-day course (14-18 September) will provide an introduction to concepts of Systems Science in public health with particular emphasis on emerging trends in epidemiological methods such as agent-based modelling and ‘big data’ approaches. The lecturer, Prof Abdul El-Sayed from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, is a talented teacher who has convened several similar workshops on this topic including at the Society for Epidemiological Research earlier this year.

The course will be suitable for individuals with a solid background in epidemiology and biostatistics, including academic/professional staff and advanced postgraduate students. Note that the course concepts and methods are not focused on a specific class of health concerns and teaching examples will be drawn from different complex causal systems where social, behavioural and biological factors interact, including chronic diseases, violence and infectious conditions.

What is systems science? How can it help us understand the distribution and determinants of health and disease in populations? What implications does it have for population health interventions? How does one conceptualize and construct a systems model?

This course is intended as a conceptual overview of complex systems science in population health. We will engage the concept of complexity with a focus on asking and answering research questions and applying these insights to conceptualize systems science approaches to answering research questions. We will begin by formalizing the traditional epistemological approach in epidemiology, discussing its strengths and weaknesses. We will then explore the concepts of complexity and systems science and their approaches to population health questions in contrast to our traditional approaches. We will explore a number of systems science methodologies, including systems dynamics modelling, agent-based modelling, microsimulation, and Big Data techniques and how they have been leveraged for population health inquiry. This course aims to advance the student’s understanding of both systems science and population health and to afford students ready, nuanced access to the literature in both areas.

Session 1 – Systems concepts and Population Health Logic

Session 2 – Identifying complex questions

Session 3 – Agent-based modelling & microsimulation

Session 4 – Social network analysis & systems dynamics

Session 5 – Big data & its synergies

This course is open to academics/professionals and advanced postgraduate students who are completing or have completed Masters-level training in epidemiology, biostatistics or related disciplines. The course will run from 8.30 – 13.00 from Monday to Friday at the UCT Faculty of Health Sciences.

Space on the course is limited.

For more information and registration contact Ncebakazi Jwaqu (

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