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Building a local workforce of dynamic modellers

Project title: Synthesis Capacity, Simulation modelling

Project lead: Dr Jo-An Atkinson, Sax Institute

3 October 2017

The Prevention Centre is building the capacity of Australian policy makers and academics to use dynamic simulation modelling techniques to address complex public health problems.

Professor Nate Osgood

Dynamic simulation models are ‘what-if’ tools that forecast the likely effect of a range of policies and programs to address complex issues.

When the Prevention Centre launched in 2013, there were few local experts in dynamic simulation modelling, and international expert modellers were imported to work on research projects and to share their expertise in Australia.

Four years later, these international experts work alongside a growing local workforce of policy makers, academics and modellers well versed in the Prevention Centre’s participatory approach to modelling, which draws together high-end data skills, policy and research expertise.

The Centre has also increased the number of dynamic modellers in Australia, both through master classes with internationally renowned modeller Professor Nate Osgood and practical experience in Prevention Centre projects that have tackled complex problems such as alcohol-related harm and childhood obesity.

In NSW, a policy officer was embedded in the core modelling team of a project forecasting the effect of strategies to achieve the Premier’s target for reducing childhood overweight and obesity in NSW.

Increasing confidence

Dr Jo-An Atkinson, Director of Decision Analytics at the Sax Institute and an investigator across these dynamic modelling projects, said embedding policy makers in modelling teams increased policy partners’ confidence in the process and outcomes.

In the ACT, Professor Nate Osgood has worked with Prevention Centre policy maker Louise Freebairn on her PhD project to develop a dynamic simulation model of gestational diabetes prevention and care.

Ms Freebairn said the opportunity to work with international experts like Nate Osgood had expanded the horizons for this project as well as capacity.

“This model looks at a spectrum of interventions from clinical to population health in one model,” she said. “That’s breaking new ground internationally. We couldn’t do that without someone with Nate Osgood’s expertise guiding that development.”

Ms Freebairn, who is Manager of the Knowledge Translation and Health Outcomes Team, Epidemiology Section, ACT Health, is now applying her growing participatory modelling expertise, enhanced by her policy insights, to roles in other Prevention Centre modelling projects.

READ MORE about our Synthesis Capacity modelling work and the gestational diabetes project