Systems science can help public health officials make decisions


By Donna Loyle, Communications Specialist, LIMR


Norma Padron, PhD, Associate Director of MLH Center for Population Health Research (CPHR) at Lankenau Institute for Medical Research and Assistant Professor, Jefferson College of Population Health, co-authored a recently published manuscript that could help guide the work of local health departments.


Using a case study of the city of San Antonio, Texas, Dr. Padron and her colleagues determined that the use of systems science and evidence-based decision making helped public health officials working in chronic disease prevention and management to estimate health program effectiveness and costs; calculate return on investment; and develop a business case for adopting programs.


The authors built a simulation model of diabetes progression to anticipate health and cost outcomes from 2015 to 2034. The simulated scenario showed that a 1-percentage-point reduction in HbA1c would likely result in the following decreases in diabetes complications among the city’s affected population:

  • end-stage renal disease, from1.7% to 0.9%
  • lower extremity amputations, from 4.6% to 2.9%
  • stroke, from 9.8% to 7.2%
  • blindness, from 15.1% to 10.7%
  • myocardial infarction, from 23.8% to 17.9%


Additionally, the authors estimated annual direct medical cost savings would likely range from $6,842/patient for myocardial infarction to $39 800/patient for end-stage renal disease.


An abstract for the article “Using Systems Science to Inform Population Health Strategies in Local Health Departments: A Case Study in San Antonio, Texas” is available on the website for the journal Population Health Reports.


Founded in 2016, CPHR is a joint collaboration between MLH and Thomas Jefferson University’s College of Population Health (JCPH). It sits within the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR) and reports to a Joint Oversight Committee comprised of leaders from MLH, JCPH and LIMR.


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