Behavior Over Time Graphs Spur Systems Discussions, Paper Finds

Using behavior over time graphs can spur systems thinking and advance a shared understanding of complex challenges among diverse groups, according to a paper recently published in Preventing Chronic Disease by Georgia Health Policy Center researcher Jane Branscomb and her coauthors at the National Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development Center at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Given the alarming pervasiveness of chronic disease, public health practitioners increasingly seek systemic solutions. But finding broad, sustainable solutions takes an understanding of the multiple, dynamic, interacting factors within a system that are at the root of the problem. Typically, no single individual has complete insight into all of these contributing factors and interactions, so diverse groups of partners are needed to study a problem together.

“Individuals’ different expertise and perspectives are extremely valuable; but their mental models can be stubbornly implicit,” Branscomb says. “Behavior over time graphing exercises can get mental models out in the open, helping participants learn from and with one another and develop new, more promising solutions.”

Branscomb and the other study authors used these techniques to generate discussion about complex maternal and child health challenges among more than 100 participants from across the United States at the National Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development Center Skills Institute. The procedure and examples from this  work are presented in the paper.

Study coauthors Larissa Calancie, Ph.D., Seri Anderson, Alexsandra A. Apostolico, and Kristen Hassmiller Lich, Ph.D., are from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). With Branscomb, they serve as staff for the National Maternal Child Health Workforce Development Center, housed at UNC.

Click here to read the full study.