Interventions to prevent and manage complex, chronic diseases, such as obesity, are becoming increasingly more complex. However, there is a mismatch in complexity between these interventions and the methods to measure their epidemiological, behavioural, social and health economic consequences. Particularly, health economic methods are often developed in clinical trial-based settings and therefore do not measure all relevant outcomes of complex interventions, an example being unobservable risk factors such as trans-generational attitudes to obesity prevention and management among participants.
Simultaneously, new data are being generated to study the risk factors and consequences of obesity. Spanning across various geographic regions, population groups and time periods, these data allow us to capture individual, context-specific information that contribute to the large body of evidence in obesity research. However, many of these studies are difficult to compare due to their specific settings, and findings from individual studies are often not generalisable to a larger population.
To address these challenges and thus increase the usability of individual studies for prevention and management of obesity, a group of health economists, epidemiologists, clinicians and public health experts established a network to study obesity using simulation modelling. Simulation modelling is a dynamic methodology to evaluate long-term morbidity and mortality and associated costs. Combining existing studies and other data sources, simulation modelling can generate evidence on complex issues cheaply and quickly, investigate anticipated long-term treatment effects and evaluate interventions rapidly.
The group, which first gathered at the European and International Congress on Obesity 2020 (ECO-ICO2020), identified the opportunities for obesity research that a structured, coordinated approach to simulation modelling would offer and thus founded the COllaBoration in health economic modelling of overWEight and oBesity (The Obesity Cobweb) network. The Obesity Cobweb aims to improve the use of obesity simulation modelling to enhance obesity prevention and management internationally. Its work to date highlights the need to strengthen collaboration and coordination in the development and application of the health economic modelling of obesity.
During the 2021 European Congress on Obesity (ECO2021), the group presented their research framework and discussed the difficulties and advantages of obesity simulation modelling in an expert workshop. Currently, the group is planning to expand on the lessons gleaned from discussion at these congresses and the experience within the Cobweb network by collecting stakeholder views through online questionnaires. Specifically, the Cobweb members would like to identify existing modelling initiatives and techniques, as well as barriers and facilitators to the use of obesity simulation modelling and the applicability of their findings in policy and practice. To achieve this, we are currently conducting a literature review and will launch a three-round, broad-based Delphi study in 2023. The Delphi study will use questionnaires to retrieve expert opinions in an iterative process in order to mutually develop the methodology, interpretability and translation of simulation models. The Obesity Cobweb would like to stress that not only researchers are invited to take part in the Delphi study, but everyone with an interest in this field, including clinicians, policymakers, patients and members from the public.
The Cobweb members invite you to visit the Obesity Cobweb website for more information on the network, its members and its work. Furthermore, if you are interested in obesity research and consider sharing your voice, you can sign up to the Obesity Cobweb mailing list and will hear about the progression of the study through email. Also, please contact the Obesity Cobweb or any of its founding members directly if you may like further information about the network, would like to become a Cobweb member or otherwise get involved. https://obesitycobweb.wordpress.com/ Email the Obesity Cobweb at firstname.lastname@example.org.