CHIG Case Study Published by SpringerBriefs in Public Health

Monday, 16 March 2015

Springer CoverPlace and Health as Complex Systems

  • Rigorously examines the utility of complex systems theory to the study of place and health
  • Synthesizes the latest cutting-edge methods in the "complexities of place" literature into a cohesive methodological framework
  • Introduces the Definitional Test of Complex Systems (DTCS) and the SACS Toolkit as frameworks for studying places and their health as complex systems

The history of public health has focused on direct relationships between problems and solutions: vaccinations against diseases, ad campaigns targeting risky behaviors. But the accelerating pace and mounting intricacies of our lives are challenging the field to find new scientific methods for studying community health. The complexities of place (COP) approach is emerging as one such promising method.

 Place and Health as Complex Systems demonstrates how COP works, making an empirical case for its use in for designing and implementing interventions. This brief resource reviews the defining characteristics of places as dynamic and evolving social systems, rigorously testing them as well as the COP approach itself. The study, of twenty communities within one county in the Midwest, combines case-based methods and complexity science to determine whether COP improves upon traditional statistical methods of public health research. Its conclusions reveal strengths and limitations of the approach, immediate possibilities for its use, and challenges regarding future research. Included in the coverage:

  • Characteristics of places and the complexities of place approach.
  • The Definitional Test of Complex Systems.
  • Case-based modeling using the SACS toolkit.
  • Methods, maps, and measures used in the study.
  • Places as nodes within larger networks.
  • Places as power-based conflicted negotiations.

 Place and Health as Complex Systems brings COP into greater prominence in public health research, and is also valuable to researchers in related fields such as demography, health geography, community health, urban planning, and epidemiology.



CHG Members to Co-Host Systems and Complexity Sciences for Healthcare Conference

Monday, 23 September 2014

Systems and Complexity Conference

Working with Joachim Sturmberg as our lead, my colleagues and I are hosting one of the first international conferences on Systems and Complexity Science for Healthcare this November, the 13th and 14th, at Georgetown University!  -- click here to learn more or to register!!!!!!

The conference is the result of the overwhelmingly positive response that colleagues and readers around the world have had to Sturmberg and Martin's Handbook of Systems and Complexity in Health -- a cutting-edge compendium of chapters on just about every major topic at the intersection of health care and the complexity sciences.

It is going to be a fantastic conference, with opportunities for poster presentations and lectures by a handful of the top scholars in the field.  Also, the proceedings will be published by Springer


Early bird registration ends on September 20, 2014
Submission Closure for Abstracts: June 15th 
Full papers need to be submitted by September 15th


Infectious Disease Model Featured in Textbook

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Textbook cover

The Infectious Disease model developed by Michael Ball as part of research work for the CHG is being used for a "Quick Lab" in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's new Environmental Science textbook.  The Quick Lab is designed to be performed during a single class period or as a part of self-directed study, with the students running the simulation with different settings and answering  several observational questions.  The quick lab appears on page 520 as part of the Biological Hazards chapter in the textbook.

The textbook information is:

Environmental Science, ©2013, ISBN 978-0-547-90401-6

Click here to jump to the model.


CHG In The News

Friday 20 July 2012

The Kent State University Research Department has posted an article on their website that spotlights the work being done at the Complexity in Health Group. 

Click here to read the full article.  


Case-Based Modeling and the SACS Toolkit: A Mathematical Outline

Friday 23 March 2012

Dr. Brian Castellani and Dr. Rajeev Rajaram have finished an article mathematically outlining the SACS Toolkit, a new case-based method for modeling complex systems, particularly complex social systems.  It was published with the Springer journal, Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, an excellent journal run/edited by Kathleen M. Carley Carnegie Mellon University, with a great editorial board.


Much thanks to Jürgen Klüver and Christina Klüver for allowing us to present an earlier version of this paper during their session at the 8th International Conference on Complex Systems, hosted by the New England Complex Systems Institute.


First Issue of the Proceedings of the Complexity in Health Group

Friday, 6 January 2012

PCHG Issue 1, Vol. 1 2012

We are announcing the launch of the Proceedings of the Complexity in Health Group. 

 The PCHG is an annual publication designed both to showcase and provide a publication outlet for some of the main avenues of research being conducted in theComplexity in Health Group, Robert S. Morrison Health and Science Building, Kent State University at Ashtabula.  These areas include medical professionalism, community health, allostatic load, school systems, medical learning environments and case-based modeling—all explored from a complexity science perspective. 

 The studies published in the PCHG are generally comprehensive, in-depth explorations of a topic, meant to provide a wider and more complete empirical and theoretical backdrop for the specific studies that scholars involved in the Complexity in Health Group(CHG) regularly publish in various disciplinary journals.  Such an outlet as the PCHG is useful given the conventions (e.g., page constraints and narrowness of focus) typical of most research periodicals, which make it very difficult to publish relatively complete statements on a topic in complex systems terms.  While PCHG studies augment, acknowledge and cite CHG work published in other venues, each PCHG study is an original, distinct manuscript.  Finally, PCHG studies are peer-reviewed.  Prior to publication each study is sent to colleagues for review and criticism to ensure the highest quality of published proceedings possible. 

 PCHG and all of its studies are the copyright © property of the Complexity in Health Group, Kent State University at Ashtabula.  Manuscripts published in the PCHG should be cited appropriately, as in the following example:

 Castellani, B., Rajaram, R., Buckwalter, JG., Ball, M., and Hafferty, F. 2012. “Place and Health as Complex Systems: A Case Study and Empirical Test.” Proceedings of the Complexity in Health Group, Kent State University at Ashtabula, 1(1):1-35.

 Our first publication is an in-depth exploration of several key issues in complexity science and its intersection with the study of community health. First, how does one determine the empirical utility of defining a community as a complex system?  What unique insights emerge that could not otherwise be obtained?  Second, how does one conduct a litmus test of one’s definition of a community as a complex system in a systematic manner—something currently not done in the complexity science literature?  Third, how does one use the methods and techniques of complexity science to conduct such a litmus test, in combination with conventional methods such as statistics, qualitative method and historical analysis?  In our study we address all three questions, as pertains to a case study on the link between sprawl and community-level health in a Midwestern county (Summit County, Ohio) in the United States and the 20 communities of which it comprised.


Complexity, Professionalism, and the Hidden Curriculum

Thursday, 8 September 2011


Just got back from the The Association for Medical Education in Europe Conference. AMEE "is a worldwide organisation with members in 90 countries on five continents. Members include educators, researchers, administrators, curriculum developers, assessors and students in medicine and the healthcare professions."

We did a pre-conference workshop on complexity method as applied to the topics of medical professionalism and the hidden curriculum. It went very well. My co-conspirators in presenting were: 

1) Jim Price (Institute of Postgraduate Medicine, Brighton & Sussex Medical School, UK)
2) Susan Lieff (Centre for Faculty Development, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Canada) 
3) Frederic Hafferty (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA)
4) John Castellani (Johns Hopkins University, USA)

We also had two student presentations using social networks to analyze medical education:

O B Nikolaus*, R Hofer, W Pawlina, B Castellani, P K Hafferty, F W Hafferty. “Social networks and academic help seeking among first year medical students.” The Association for Medical Education in Europe Annual Conference, Vienna Austria 2011.

Ryan E Hofer, O Brant Nikolaus, Wojciech Pawlina, Brian Castellani, Philip K Hafferty, Frederic Hafferty. “Peer-to-peer assessments of professionalism: A time dependent social network perspective.” The Association for Medical Education in Europe Annual Conference, Vienna Austria 2011

Overall, a very successful conference.


CHG Members Attending Roundtable Event

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Drs. Castellani and Hafferty are involved this weekend in a roundtable event sponsored by the Mayo Clinic and the American Board of Internal Medicine.  The purpose of the roundtable is the advancement of medical professionalism through the application of complexity science.  You can download Dr. Castellani's presentation in PDF format from the link below.

Castellani Complexity Presentation.pdf  



Paper Published in Journal of Sociocybernetics

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The ISA online Journal of Sociocybernetics has released a special issue covering the proceedings from last year's Urbino Conference.  Contained in the issue is a paper authored by CHG research team members Dr. Brian Castellani, Dr. Frederic Hafferty, and Michael Ball.  The paper, E-Social Science from a Systems Perspective: Applying the SACS Toolkit, addresses the use of the SACS Toolkit to translate, organize and manipulate electronic data from varied sources. The complete issue of the journal can be viewed at:

The CHG paper begins on page 89 of the issue.


Infectious Disease Model

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

CHG Research Team Member, Michael Ball, has completed a model looking at the progression of a fatal illness communicated via contact, complete with incubation period, variable disease period and terminality, and agents who are immune to the disease. This model simulates the spread of an infectious disease traveling via contact through a randomly moving population. The user can draw walls, buildings, or obstacles in the in the simulation grid to simulate different environments.

Future versions of the model will show the progression of air-borne, food-borne and fixed source contact diseases.  This model was developed as part of research work for the Complexity in Health Group. A working copy of the model, along with directions and the complete code can be found at:

Questions, comments, or suggestions for the model are quite welcome.



The Complexity in Health & Infrastructure Group is located in the Robert S. Morrison Health & Science Building, on the campus of Kent State University at Ashtabula.

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