Presentation M O32

M O32 (Oral Presentation):
Examining the application of system dynamics modeling methodolgy to return-to-work research and practice

Presented by: Arif Jetha


Jetha A1,2, Pransky G1, Hettinger L1

  1. Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety
  2. University of Massachusetts



Return-to-work (RTW) following a disabling illness or injury can be a complex process with variable and often undesirable outcomes. Few conceptual RTW models have explored interactive and dynamic properties between influential components. Systems dynamics modeling (SDM), a methodology for capturing RTW complexity through the development of feedback loops, provides a technique for researchers to visualize system structure and simulate program and policy changes. The aim of this presentation is to: 1) Examine methods for applying SDM to RTW research and practice and; 2) Discuss the utility of SDM to understand RTW complexity.


Methods from an upcoming study applying SDM methodology to companies facing RTW challenges will be presented. A mixed-methods approach will be used and a range of stakeholders will be recruited from each company including employees, human resource managers, occupational health representatives, RTW coordinators, among others. First, semi-structured in-depth interviews will be conducted with RTW coordinators to identify complex RTW problems at each company and important components that exist in their RTW system. Second, two facilitated group model building sessions will be organized where participants will collaboratively design feedback loops and quantify the relationships between components and their influence on RTW. Models will be transferred to the program VenSim to enable simulation and an examination of validity.


Using SDM the complex interaction between individual, workplace, healthcare, legal and financial components and their influence on RTW system function and outcomes can be better understood. In particular, researchers will be able to visualize the combined effect of feedback loops on system behavior, simulate the effect of varying components on RTW outcomes and identify areas of resilience (e.g. the ability of a system to adapt to change) as well as key leverage points which have the most significant and sustained impact on RTW.


SDM will provide insights into underlying causes of unsatisfactory RTW outcomes, uncover bottlenecks and identify opportunities for the development of creative, comprehensive and integrated solutions to tackle complex work disability problems.

Schedule Details

Monday September 29
15:45 - 17:15 Afternoon Concurrent Sessions (M O25 - M O37 and Seminar 3)
Session: Return to work process
Room B