Annual Review of Public Health

Tracy, Melissa*, Magdalena Cerdá, and Katherine M. Keyes


Agent-based modeling is a computational approach in which agents with a specified set of characteristics interact with each other and with their environment according to predefined rules. We review key areas in public health where agent-based modeling has been adopted, including both communicable and noncommunicable disease, health behaviors, and social epidemiology. Wealso describe the main strengths and limitations of this approach for questions with public health relevance. Finally, we describe both methodologic and substantive future directions that we believe will enhance the value of agent-based modeling for public health. In particular, advances in model validation, comparisons with other causal modeling procedures, and the expansion of the models to consider comorbidity and joint influences more systematically will improve the utility of this approach to inform public health research, practice, and policy. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Public Health Volume 39 is April 1, 2018. Please see for revised estimates.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates, Affiliates, and Staff