Translating systems thinking into public health innovations


Terry Huang is Professor at the City University of New York School of Public Health and at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) College of Public Health. He chaired the Department of Health Promotion at UNMC from 2010-2014. Professor Huang is co-founder and Senior Advisor of the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research, which coordinates activities across the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Agriculture, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Previously, Professor Huang was Director of the Obesity Research Strategic Core at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development where he played a leading role in developing new national research directions and funding priorities.

Dr. Huang is currently one of the leading proponents on the integration of systems science and chronic disease prevention.  He leads a national and global agenda on systems science education and research in public health, with a particular focus on childhood obesity, systems-oriented prevention strategies, the application of design thinking to community health, and the translation of science to policy.  He has lectured and published extensively on these topics. He has also served as a consultant or expert for the Institute of Medicine, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Access to Nutrition Foundation, EPODE International Network, among other notable organisations. For his work with National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research, Professor Huang received the US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Innovation Award in 2010 and the NIH Director’s Award in 2011. In addition, he received the National Cancer Institute Award of Merit in 2012 and was named UNMC Distinguished Scientist in 2013.

Terry Huang is Professor at the City University of New York School of Public Health and at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) College of Public Health. He chaired the Department of Health Promotion at UNMC from 2010-2014. Professor Huang is co-founder and Senior Advisor of the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research, which coordinates activities across the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Agriculture, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Previously, Professor Huang was Director of the Obesity Research Strategic Core at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development where he played a leading role in developing new national research directions and funding priorities.

Dr. Huang is currently one of the leading proponents on the integration of systems science and chronic disease prevention.  He leads a national and global agenda on systems science education and research in public health, with a particular focus on childhood obesity, systems-oriented prevention strategies, the application of design thinking to community health, and the translation of science to policy.  He has lectured and published extensively on these topics. He has also served as a consultant or expert for the Institute of Medicine, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Access to Nutrition Foundation, EPODE International Network, among other notable organisations. For his work with National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research, Professor Huang received the US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Innovation Award in 2010 and the NIH Director’s Award in 2011. In addition, he received the National Cancer Institute Award of Merit in 2012 and was named UNMC Distinguished Scientist in 2013.

The impact of interventions for obesity and chronic disease has often been limited because these interventions tend to take a compartmentalised approach rather than tackle the complexity of the problems directly.

Insights from systems science have the potential to inform the design of public health interventions and enhance their implementation and dissemination.  Systems thinking can also transform the ways in which public health engages communities and the public to address pressing public health challenges and health disparities.

This presentation will give an introduction to systems thinking, discuss ways to integrate top-down and bottom-up approaches to public health, and conclude with some ideas for how to evaluate systems interventions.