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The Application of Systems Science to Addressing Obesity at the Workplace: Tapping into Unexplored Potential

Pronk, Nicolaas P. PhD, MA; Narayan, K.M. Venkat MD, MSc, MBA

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: February 2016 - Volume 58 - Issue 2 - p 123–126
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000648

Objective: The aim of the study was to address the need for explicit recognition that obesity is complex in its biological, social, psychological, and societal determinants and ramifications, and that applications of programs to address obesity at the workplace need to recognize this setting as a complex social environment. Efforts to address this complexity more meaningfully demand intentional application of systems science principles and approaches.

Method: Along with several relevant examples, a description of systems sciences and the application of its principles to obesity and the workplace setting are presented.

Conclusions: Systems science provides a method to explore large proportions of unexplored potential and unexplained variation in obesity research as applied to the workplace.

HealthPartners, Health Promotion Department, HealthPartners Institute, Department of Population Health, Minneapolis, MN, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences (Dr Pronk), Boston, MA; and Department of Global Health and Epidemiology, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health (Dr Narayan), Atlanta, GA.

Address correspondence to: Nicolaas P. Pronk, PhD, Mail Stop 21111H, PO Box 1309, 8170 33rd Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55440-1309 (

This work was conducted without external funding support.

Authors Pronk and Narayan have no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

Copyright © 2016 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine