The Power of Social Network Interventions on Population Health

Dr. Nicholas Christakis Presented Research on How Social Contagion Interventions Could Impact Health Care
 

Boston, MA—May 23, 2017—The International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) held its second plenary session this morning at its 22nd Annual International Meeting in Boston, MA, USA. The plenary, Social Network Interventions and Population Health, highlighted the research of Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, Sol Goldman Professor, Social and Natural Science, Co-Director, Yale Institute for Network Science, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA. The plenary was moderated by Shelby D. Reed, PhD, RPh, Professor, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA and ISPOR President-Elect.  

Dr. Christakis provided an overview of his 20-years of research on social networks. His research includes the application of social network principles in order to change population-level behaviors in a variety of arenas, including health. Social network interventions could be used in a variety of areas in health care such as obesity, smoking cessation, pathogens, and medication choice. He noted that human beings have been embedding themselves in real social networks for thousands of years.

His early research examined obesity and social contagion, showing that clustering occurs and that information, disease, and emotion spreads to three-degrees of separation (e.g., revealing that your weight [whether you lose or gain weight] will actually affect the weight of your friends and your friends’ friends). His other research focused on the impact of human emotions in the context of social networks, which found that emotions are also effected by social networks (e.g., happiness and anger also spread through social networks to three-degrees of separation). Through his research exploring altruism, Dr. Christakis found that the concept of “paying it forward” is real and spreads across people and across time.

An important concept that has emerged from this research is that a network functions like a “social magnifying glass.” When these networks are “seeded” with specific behaviors or emotions (e.g., healthy or unhealthy behaviors, emotions, etc.), the information is spread and amplified throughout the network to transform the natural world. Additionally, research indicates that there is heritability of our network position, meaning it is literally “in our genes” that determines the people with whom we form these networks.

Additional information on Dr. Christakis’ work can be found here. Information on his most recent article published last week in Nature can be found here. Information on the ISPOR 22nd Annual International Meeting can be found here. Released presentations from the conference can be found here. Interested parties can follow conference news at ISPOR’s press site and on social media using the conference hashtag #ISPORBoston.

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