Methods We first outline the potential role of systems science methods for public health research more generally, then provide an overview of the complexity of the cost-of-living crisis as a specific case study. We propose how four systems science methods (soft systems, microsimulation, agent-based and system dynamics models) could be applied to provide more in-depth understanding. For each method, we illustrate its unique knowledge contributions, and set out one or more options for studies that could help inform policy and practice responses.
Results Due to its fundamental impact on the determinants of health, while limiting resources for population-level interventions, the cost-of-living
crisis presents a complex public health challenge. When confronted with complexity, non-linearity, feedback loops and adaptation processes, systems methods allow a deeper understanding and forecasting of the interactions and spill-over effects common with real-world interventions and policies.
Conclusions Systems science methods provide a rich methodological toolbox that complements our traditional public health methods. This toolbox may be particularly useful in early stages of the current cost-of-living crisis:
for understanding the situation, developing solutions and sandboxing potential responses to improve population health.