Development of effective policy responses to address complex public health problems can be challenged by a lack of clarity about the interaction of risk factors driving the problem, differing views of stakeholders on the most appropriate and effective intervention approaches, a lack of evidence to support commonly implemented and acceptable intervention approaches, and a lack of acceptance of effective interventions. Consequently, political considerations, community advocacy and industry lobbying can contribute to a hotly contested debate about the most appropriate course of action; this can hinder consensus and give rise to policy resistance. The problem of alcohol misuse and its associated harms in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, provides a relevant example of such challenges.

Dynamic simulation modelling is increasingly being valued by the health sector as a robust tool to support decision making to address complex problems. It allows policy makers to ask ‘what-if’ questions and test the potential impacts of different policy scenarios over time, before solutions are implemented in the real world. Participatory approaches to modelling enable researchers, policy makers, program planners, practitioners and consumer representatives to collaborate with expert modellers to ensure that models are transparent, incorporate diverse evidence and perspectives, are better aligned to the decision-support needs of policy makers, and can facilitate consensus building for action.

This paper outlines a procedure for embedding stakeholder engagement and consensus building in the development of dynamic simulation models that can guide the development of effective, coordinated and acceptable policy responses to complex public health problems, such as alcohol-related harms in NSW.


alcohol and other drugs, evidence informed policy and practice, health information and technology

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