The application of systems thinking to the prevention and control of sexually transmissible infections among adolescents and adults: A scoping review


Systems thinking is a mechanism for making sense of complex systems that challenge linear explanations of cause-and-effect. While the prevention and control of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) has been identified as an area that may benefit from systems-level analyses, no review on the subject currently exists. The aim of this study is to conduct a scoping review to identify literature in which systems thinking has been applied to the prevention and control of STIs among adolescent and adult populations. Joanna Briggs Institute guidelines for the conduct of scoping reviews were followed. Five databases were searched for English-language studies published after 2011. A total of n = 6102 studies were screened against inclusion criteria and n = 70 were included in the review. The majority of studies (n = 34) were conducted in African nations. Few studies focused on priority sub-populations, and 93% were focused on HIV (n = 65). The most commonly applied systems thinking method was system dynamics modelling (n = 28). The review highlights areas for future research, including the need for more STI systems thinking studies focused on: (1) migrant and Indigenous populations; (2) conditions such as syphilis; and (3) innovations such as pre-exposure prophylaxis and at-home testing for HIV. The need for conceptual clarity around ‘systems thinking’ is also highlighted.


Vujcich D, Roberts M, Selway T, Nattabi B




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
    • General HIV- population
  • Co-infections
    • Chlamydia
    • Syphilis


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