Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Applying systems dynamics to global health challenges


MIT SDM student Rafael Maranon models impact of Internet-based clinical information in Third World countries

Increasing the quality of clinical information available in resource-limited settings, where a high number of treatable illnesses is associated with high rates of morbidity and mortality, was the motivation for our team project in the MIT Sloan course 15.875 Applications of System Dynamics: Global Challenges.

Working together with UpToDate, Inc., a U.S. market leader in providing peer-reviewed information to health providers via the Web, we modeled the impact of implementing donated UpToDate subscriptions in hospitals and medical centers in Rwanda, Malawi and South Africa.

As part of this project, Jeremy Lai, MIT ’10, and I worked closely together throughout the project to build a model that simulated the dynamics of Internet-based medical resources in underserved areas. SDM ’10 student James Peruvankal provided input during the consulting phase.

By continually iterating the process involving problem definition, dynamic hypothesis, analysis, policy and implementation, we came up with a model that enabled us to better understand the needs of providers in resource-limited settings. In addition, we developed recommendations for UpToDate that could make its existing grant subscription program more attractive to hospitals and medical centers.

This course, taught by Senior Lecture Anjali Sastry, was an excellent opportunity for us to address global challenges and interact with other stakeholders, including the Global Health Delivery (GHD) Project team. In addition, working together with UpToDate enabled us to develop valuable management consulting and system thinking skills.

We also learned much from others teams’ class projects such as the Joint Task Force in Haiti, GlobalGiving, Climate Interactive: Helping Simulation Insights Lead to Action, Homestar/Enerpath, Community Health System Transformation, Red Cross/Red Crescent and Gates Foundation/Business-Higher Education Forum.

For students who want to continue to learn how to apply systems thinking to real-world global challenges, MIT offers two new courses taught by Anjali Sastry as well: 15.965 Global Health Delivery and Management in Fall H2 2010, and Global Health Delivery Lab in Spring 2011.

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