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As another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic spreads throughout the U.S. and other countries around the world, leaders continue to refine their strategies for mitigating the worst effects of the pandemic. Effective policy is critical, but across the U.S., systemic inequity has been exacerbated by unequal distributional impacts from the pandemic and from the policy response across racial, ethnic, and class lines. Before policymakers can prepare to alleviate burdens that disproportionately fall on already vulnerable communities, we first need to understand and expect these impacts – we need to model them. Top-down, equation-based “mass action” models generally are limited in their ability to disaggregate impacts with high resolution. Bottom-up, agent-based models are one way to bridge this gap and gain insight beyond just how many people are impacted by the pandemic by digging deeper into which people are affected.

This webinar features four panelists offering perspectives on:

  • Moving from top-down modeling towards higher resolution
  • The importance of equity as a core criteria in policy
  • Modeling both efficacy and equity impacts
  • Communicating insights to policy decision-makers

Zoom details will be shared with all registrants the morning of the webinar.

Panelists include:

Zhanwei Du is a research associate in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin. He mainly develops mathematical models to elucidate the transmission dynamics, surveillance, and control of infectious diseases informed by large-scale and fine-grained traveling data between and within cities using agent-based or compartment modeling. In 2020, his COVID-19 research includes the outbreak risk and serial interval in Chinese cities and the impact of social distancing in Texas cities. Currently, his ten COVID-19 papers have been published in journals (e.g, Science, PNAS, Nature Communication, Clinical Infectious Diseases, and Emerging infectious diseases) with ~700 citations.

Nadia Siddiqui is Texas Health Institute’s inaugural Chief Health Equity Officer. Previously, she served as Director of Health Equity Programs leading a range of research, evaluation, and community programs to advance health equity at the national, state, and local levels. In her new role, as of September 2020, Nadia will work to embed health equity across the institute’s structure, process, and programs, while also working with cross-sector partners in Texas and across the nation to systemically and measurably advance health equity. Ms. Siddiqui holds a Master of Public Health in Health Policy and Management from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Public Health and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics-Honors from the University of Texas at Austin.

D. Cale Reeves is a postdoctoral research fellow with Varun Rai’s research group and lecturer with the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He explores the individual-level decision-making processes that drive emergent policy outcomes, focusing mainly on understanding the green technology adoption/diffusion system. As a computational social scientist, he enjoys applying cutting-edge methods such as agent-based modeling and natural language processing to problems that require broad systems-aware approaches, thus contributing to the search for solutions for so-called “wicked problems” like climate change. He hopes to understand how the exchange of information within social networks can be explicitly leveraged in intervention designs to achieve more effective programs and more efficient policy.

Ross A. Hammond, Ph.D., is Director of the Center on Social Dynamics & Policy and Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution. He is also the Betty Bofinger Brown Distinguished Associate Professor in Public Health and Social Policy at Washington University in St Louis, and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. His primary area of expertise is modeling complex dynamics across economic, social, and public health systems using methods from complexity science. His current research topics include pandemic containment policies, obesity etiology and prevention, food systems, tobacco control, behavioral epidemiology, and decision-making. He has published extensively across disciplinary and general science journals, and his work has been featured in The Atlantic Monthly, Scientific American, New Scientist, Salon and major news media. Hammond serves in formal policy advisory roles at the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Academies of Science. He has taught computational modeling at Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Michigan, Washington University, and the NIH.

Moderator: Varun Rai. Dr. Rai is a Professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs and in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, where he directs the Energy Systems Transformation Research Group (aka “Rai Group”). His interdisciplinary research – delving with issues at the interface of energy systems, complex systems, decision science, and public policy – focuses on studying how the interactions between the underlying social, behavioral, economic, technological, and institutional components of the energy system impact the diffusion of energy technologies. He has presented at several important forums, including the United States Senate Briefings, Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition, and Global Economic Symposium, and his research group’s work has been discussed in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Bloomberg News, among other venues. He received his Ph.D. and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University and a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur.

Register here.