Spotlight on Research at COPH – Dr. Araz’s research focuses on developing system simulation models to analyze and understand the behaviors of complex systems and to inform policy decision making about complex public health issues. Simulation gives policy makers the ability to see the real-time impact of their decisions. As an industrial engineer trained in systems simulation and computational methods, Dr. Araz participates in various research projects in the College of Public Health (COPH) and collaborates with faculty from other colleges on campus. His recent work includes developing natural history models for prostate cancer, STDs, influenza, and obesity, in order to evaluate different public health strategies. Dr. Araz was also part of a research team with other faculty in the COPH and at UNL that addressed the health needs of a neighborhood in the urban Chicago area for sustainable development. That project was funded by the HDR company.
Dr. Araz also collaborates with the MIDAS (the NIH Modeling Infectious Disease Agents Study) research group at the University of Texas at Austin on developing decision support models for mitigating influenza pandemics and developing predictive models to forecast future epidemics. For example, the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic forced school closures around the globe. Such actions can have negative economic and social effects. Dr. Araz and his research collaborators used a decision analytic approach and a mathematical model to estimate the effects of school closures in terms of epidemiological and financial costs. The findings from this research project highlight the importance of obtaining early estimates of pandemic severity and give public health decision makers guidance for effective school closure strategies in response to a flu pandemic. In another research project, Dr. Araz and his research team used a decision-making framework to evaluate and predict the most effective vaccine distribution policies during an influenza pandemic. His research articles have appeared in peer review journals, including Decision Support Systems, Healthcare Management Science, BMC Public Health, and Technological Forecasting and Social Change.
Ozgur Araz, PhD, is an assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health.