Catalyzing Transdisciplinarity: A Systems Ethnography of Cancer–Obesity Comorbidity and Risk Coincidence

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Abstract

Effectively addressing wicked health problems, that is, those arising from complex multifactorial biological and socio-economic causes, requires transdisciplinary action. However, a significant body of research points toward substantial difficulties in cultivating transdisciplinary collaboration. Accordingly, this article presents the results of a study that adapts Systems Ethnography and Qualitative Modeling (SEQM) in response to wicked health problems. SEQM protocols were designed to catalyze transdisciplinary responses to national defense concerns. We adapted these protocols to address cancer–obesity comorbidity and risk coincidence. In so doing, we conducted participant-observations and interviews with a diverse range of health care providers, community health educators, and health advocacy professionals who target either cancer or obesity. We then convened a transdisciplinary conference designed to catalyze a coordinated response. The findings offer productive insights into effective ways of catalyzing transdisciplinarity in addressing wicked health problems action and demonstrate the promise of SEQM for continued use in health care contexts.

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