Building resilience through action: modelling public responses to global health challenges 

July 11th, 2023

How can societies ‘bounce forward’ and build resilience amid global health challenges?

Project duration: February 2023 – January 2026

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The Challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of a rapid and coordinated response to global health challenges. It also provided a range of critical insights into the social factors that can impact health: in particular, the complexity of changing human behaviour at scale. 

For example, wearing masks, staying at home or being vaccinated are individual behaviours. But they work most effectively to protect health when a high proportion of the population adopts them. The adoption of these measures and directives during the pandemic varied from country to country. This can be attributed to a range of different social and individual reasons. The spread of misinformation though social networks and online platforms may be one such factor.  

The future is likely to present a range of global challenges such as new infectious diseases, food supply and security issues, and climate disasters. The collective and timely adoption of new behaviours or technologies will be essential to effectively manage social, environmental and economic costs of these challenges – and minimising loss of life.  

The challenge is to move beyond a ‘bounce back’ approach to disaster resilience, where the response focuses on recovering the status quo. Instead, a ‘bounce forward’ approach takes a wider view of resilience, advocating transformative adaptation while recognising the importance of preparation and readiness. Understanding the key factors that predict widescale behavioural responses to global challenges is crucial, to make this shift. 

Our Response

CSIRO’s Immune Resilience and Responsible Innovation Future Science Platforms are working together to develop a model of human behaviour, which can identify what influences how populations respond to disasters.  

One way of exploring the social dynamics of resilience is to investigate how the spread of information influences peoples’ behaviour. This can reveal important information about what makes us trust or distrust public institutions, what makes us inclined to seek out and believe information from particular sources, and how this information influences our behaviour.   

This project will use techniques such as agent-based modelling to understand dynamic human interactions, the spread of information and its influence on behaviour. Our researchers will examine the influence of a range of factors, including the role of trust in science, the importance of community engagement, and different ways of sharing scientific information with the public.   

By building a nuanced understanding of how people respond to different ways of presenting information, more effective approaches to disrupting misinformation and promoting evidence-based information can be developed. This in turn will build greater readiness, preparedness and resilience among national populations, and support the design, acceptance and uptake of behavioural and technological responses to global challenges, as they arise. 


By gaining a better understanding of the factors that most influence population-scale resilience, we can better inform and target appropriate interventions. These could include anything from vaccination policies for future pandemics, or strategic counterarguments to misinformation on social networks. The aim of such interventions is to collectively position us to best achieve outcomes in the face of global challenges, from improving population health to abating the climate crisis.   

Ultimately, this project aims to future-proof our society against a range of nascent global challenges. It aims to do this by improving preparation and readiness, and by identifying and addressing the social and individual factors that may inhibit timely behavioural changes. 


Tim Bainbridge, Sinéad Golley, Emily Brindal, and Naomi Kakoschke

Find out more: Bounce Forward: The future of resilience for Australians – Immune Resilience Future Science Platform (