STAR: A New Technology to evaluate the Future Impact of Chronic Diseases and Health Care Decisions

Principal Investigator: Jacek Kopec – Senior Research Scientist of Epidemiology, MD, PhD. Professor, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia

Why do this research?

Computer simulation modeling is a technique that allows us to see how health care interventions and policies will affect the population, before they are implemented. The goal of the Simulation Technology for Applied Research (STAR) project is to advance this technology, to promote and expand its use in health care research and policies, and to improve the decision process at all levels of the health care system. The STAR team has built a multi-disease computer simulation model to study the health of the population by integrating individual models for Osteoarthritis (OA), Coronary Heart Disease, and Diabetes.

What will be done?

This is an ongoing project that started in 2008. The individual disease models have been developed and integrated into the multi-disease model. Using this model, we started simulating realistic disease scenarios. Our results have been published in international journals and presented at international conferences. OA simulations so far have predicted:

  1. A 30% increase in OA prevalence in Canada between 2001 and 2021, due to aging of the population and increasing obesity rate;
  2. The increasing trend in OA prevalence in Canada will not be significantly affected by small-to-moderate reductions in obesity;
  3. Due to aging of the population, OA will remain a major and growing health issue in Canada over the next 2 decades, regardless of the course of the obesity epidemic;
  4. Targeting only persons aged 50+ for weight reduction may be an effective strategy for OA, while targeting only obese (BMI≥30) may be an effective strategy for men but not for women;
  5. Health-adjusted life expectancy of Canadians would improve by 1.2 years if all new cases of OA could be avoided;
  6. Total cost of treating Canadians with osteoarthritis will quadruple over the next two decades to reach $8.1 billion by the year 2031.

OA simulations in progress will tell us:

  1. The health impact of drug use among persons with OA.
  2. The need for joint replacement surgery over the next 20 years.


How is this study conducted?

The key to the STAR team’s success is its strong collaborations and the diverse talents within the team. This group holds expertise in Health Services Research, Epidemiology, Statistics, Medicine, Computer Science, Simulation Modelling, Health Economics and many other fields. The STAR team also works closely with Government Officials to fine-tune policy related research. The modeling technique we use is called microsimulation: we track the effect on the population by simulating individual “people”, compute the risk of different diseases and predict their effects on health. The software we are using is called POHEM (Population Health Model). It was developed at Statistics Canada.

Who is funding the research?

This study was funded by Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR).

Who is on the research team?

Co-investigators: Michal Abrahamowicz – PhD, Professor, McGill University David Buckeridge – MD, PhD, Associate Professor, McGill University Philippe Fines – PhD Senior Analyst, Statistics Canada William Flanagan – Chief POHEM Programmer, Statistics Canada Sam Harper MSPH – PhD, Assistant Professor, McGill University John Lynch – PhD, MPH, Med, Professor, University of South Australia Douglas Manuel – MD, FRCPC, Senior Scientist, Ottawa Health Research Institute and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa Michael Wolfson – PhD, Canada Research Chair, Population Health Modelling / Populomics Institute of Population Health and Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa Claude Nadeau – PhD, Statistics Canada Scientist

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