Applications of systems science in biomedical research regarding obesity and noncommunicable chronic diseases: Opportunities, promise, and challenges

Youfa Wang, Hong Xue, Shiyong Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Interest in the application of systems science (SS) in biomedical research, particularly regarding obesity and noncommunicable chronic disease (NCD) research, has been growing rapidly over the past decade. SS is a broad term referring to a family of research approaches that include modeling. As an emerging approach being adopted in public health, SS focuses on the complex dynamic interaction between agents (e.g., people) and subsystems defined at different levels. SS provides a conceptual framework for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches that address complex problems. SS has unique advantages for studying obesity and NCD problems in comparison to the traditional analytic approaches. The application of SS in biomedical research dates back to the 1960s with the development of computing capacity and simulation software. In recent decades, SS has been applied to addressing the growing global obesity epidemic. There is growing appreciation and support for using SS in the public health field, with many promising opportunities. There are also many challenges and uncertainties, including methodologic, funding, and institutional barriers. Integrated efforts by stakeholders that address these challenges are critical for the successful application of SS in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-95
Number of pages8
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes



  • Child
  • Intervention
  • Models
  • Noncommunicable chronic diseases
  • Obesity
  • Policy
  • Simulation
  • Systems science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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