Abstract for: A critical reflection on approaches to problem articulation for system dynamics modelling in health policy analysis projects

Problem articulation (the process by which the problem of interest in a study is defined, and the purpose of modelling work set) is a critical first step in any system dynamics (SD) modelling project, but there is little guidance in the research literature on how best to do it. Existing work contrasts static (modeller-defined or client-defined) approaches to problem articulation at project outset, with dynamic, evolutionary approaches that allow for modifications to problem articulation over the course of a modelling project. This study reflects on learning from two different problem articulation methods – blending both static and dynamic approaches – and their implications for research design through two case studies in health policy analysis, focusing on [1] payment for performance (P4P) programme implementation for improved maternal and child health (MCH) outcomes in Tanzania, and [2] national vaccination delivery system responses to large-scale population movement in the contact of humanitarian crisis in Lebanon. The presentation will consider implications of variations in levels of prior, quantitative data availability for key variables to inform problem articulation, the potential utility (or otherwise) of “soft systems” approaches in aiding modeller understanding of system boundaries, and of stakeholder engagement in later project phases in modifying problem articulation.