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J R Soc Interface. 2012 Mar 7;9(68):562-70. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2011.0325. Epub 2011 Jul 20.

Incorporating individual health-protective decisions into disease transmission models: a mathematical framework.

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Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


It is anticipated that the next generation of computational epidemic models will simulate both infectious disease transmission and dynamic human behaviour change. Individual agents within a simulation will not only infect one another, but will also have situational awareness and a decision algorithm that enables them to modify their behaviour. This paper develops such a model of behavioural response, presenting a mathematical interpretation of a well-known psychological model of individual decision making, the health belief model, suitable for incorporation within an agent-based disease-transmission model. We formalize the health belief model and demonstrate its application in modelling the prevalence of facemask use observed over the course of the 2003 Hong Kong SARS epidemic, a well-documented example of behaviour change in response to a disease outbreak.

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