Clienti D, Issel M, Wells R, Link (Anderson) S, Lich KH. System dynamics approaches and collective action for community health: an integrative review. Am J Community Psychol. 2019 Jun;63(3-4):527-45. doi: 10.1002/ajcp.12305

System dynamics (SD) methods, from qualitative causal loop diagramming to quantitative simulation modeling, have the potential to be powerful tools for engaging community stakeholders interested in improving health. However, the extent to which SD drives collective action to improve community health is unclear. The objective of this review was to understand how often, why, and how SD has been used by cross-sector community collectives. Of 409 identified manuscripts describing application of SD to community health, only 31 (7.6%) documented cross-sector collective use of these tools. All 31 had as a purpose using SD to better understand community health problems, but only seven (22.6%) documented a collective action taken as the result. In nine of the 31 articles (29.0%), no learning, decisions, or action was documented. The most common form of collective participation in SD work among the seven collectives reporting resulting action was building the SD model, with implementing a new program or practice the most frequently mentioned collective action resulting. Cost and access were the most common system outcomes studied, and chronic diseases and prevention were commonly mentioned as the focal health outcomes. Overall, SD methods seem underutilized for engaging cross-sector collectives in addressing complex community health problems.

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