Modeling Social Dynamics & Health Behavior Conference

The 2018 conference has passed and will return in 2019.

October 26, 2018
8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The Modeling Social Dynamics and Health Behaviors Conference, a one-day conference on using computational approaches in social and behavioral research, took place on October 26, 2018. In addition to the CTSI Biomedical Modeling core, the conference was jointly sponsored by the the Center for Social Dynamics & Community Health and the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory

Studying the complex contexts of health behaviors and the dynamic interactions of individuals with their social and physical environments is critical for identifying and informing public health intervention opportunities. This conference brought together leaders from across the country to discuss the integration of modeling approaches into the field of behavioral and community health sciences. Through panel discussions and breakout sessions, attendees learned about existing research, discussed associated challenges and opportunities, and helped chart a path forward for this emerging field.

Questions? Contact the CTSI Modeling Core at or 412-864-3484.

Pre-Conference Behavior Modeling Workshop

Thursday, October 25, 2018
Noon - 5 p.m.

This half-day workshop will offer hands-on experience with FRED (Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics), an agent-based modeling platform developed by the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory.


Conference Live Video

Welcome and Keynote Presentation

Welcome and Opening Remarks:
Christina Mair, University of Pittsburgh
Tim Lezon, University of Pittsburgh
Mark S. Roberts, University of Pittsburgh
Jessica Griffin Burke, University of Pittsburgh

Keynote Speaker:
Thomas W. Valente, University of Southern California: Contagion and interpersonal influence: Network models of and for behavior change


Morning Breakout Sessions

Session 1: Violence
Steven Albert
, University of Pittsburgh

Magdelena Cerdá, New York University: Using agent-based models to investigate the impact of firearms disqualification criteria based on alcohol and drug arrests on firearm-related homicide and suicide

Jessica Griffin Burke, University of Pittsburgh: Dynamic simulation of crime perpetration and reporting to examine community intervention strategies

Stephen Mooney, University of Washington: G-computation and agent-based modeling for social epidemiology: Can population interventions prevent post-traumatic stress disorder?

Session 2: Sexual Risk Behaviors
James Egan
, University of Pittsburgh

Samuel Jenness, Emory University: Modeling feedback effects between sexual behavior and use of HIV/STI prevention tools

Kayo Fujimoto, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston: Application of stochastic network modeling approach to HIV/STI research among MSM

Parastu Kasaie, Johns Hopkins University: Projecting the population-level impact of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV among men who have sex with men in Baltimore City

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

Session 3: Substance Use

Kar-Hai Chu, University of Pittsburgh

Robin Purshouse, University of Sheffield: Explaining the dynamics of population health behaviors over long time horizons using calibrated, systems-based computer models: A case study in alcohol use

Hawre Jalal, University of Pittsburgh: Challenges and opportunities in modeling the substance use epidemic in the United States

Christina Mair, University of Pittsburgh: Applying a behavioral risk modeling framework to alcohol-related problems in community settings

Session 4: Physical Activity and Diet
Jessica Thompson
, University of Pittsburgh

Brent Langellier
, Drexel University: Complex systems approaches to understanding diet in Latin American cities

Erin Hennessy
, Tufts University: Using agent-based modeling to advance obesity prevention intervention research

Donglan Zhang
, University of Georgia: An agent-based modelling approach to assess the impact of public health interventions on improving healthy diet in communities

The Future of Modeling Social Dynamics and Health Behavior

The Future of Modeling Social Dynamics and Health Behavior: Learning from the Past
Moderator and Presenter:
Patricia Mabry
, Indiana University: Modeling social dynamics and health behavior for better policy decision-making

Michael Yonas, The Pittsburgh Foundation
David Galloway, University of Pittburgh
Magdalena Cerdá, New York University

The Future of Modeling Social Dynamics and Health Behavior: Charting the Future
Paul Cohen
, University of Pittsburgh
Donald S. Burke, University of Pittsburgh


Pre-Conference Behavior Modeling Workshop

Event:      Pre-Conference Behavior Modeling Workshop

Date:        Thursday, October 25, 2018

Time:        12-5 p.m.

Location:  1149 Public Health, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

This workshop is co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Public Health’s Public Health Dynamics Laboratory (PHDL) and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), both at the University of Pittsburgh. This hands-on workshop will focus on use of FRED (Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics), an agent-based modeling platform developed by the PHDL.

FRED uses census-based statistically representative synthetic populations that capture the demographic and geographically heterogeneous characteristics of actual populations, including realistic neighborhood, household, school, and workplace social networks. FRED populations are currently available for every state and county in the United States and selected international locations. FRED is a flexible system that can be used to model diverse situations, including infectious diseases, chronic conditions, demographic changes at the population level, and the effects of human behavior. It can be used to predict outcomes of an epidemic, such as epidemic curves and disease incidence, and is a tool for evaluating interventions, such as school closure, social distancing, and changes in vaccination behavior

Workshop participants will become familiar with the FRED platform, learn the basics of incorporating and simulating agent behavior in simulation models as well as create and run their own behavioral models using FRED Web, an online interface in which FRED models can be designed, run, and analyzed.

There is no cost for the workshop, but space is limited. Registration is required by Friday, October 12 2018.