Student: Barton J. Willage

School: Beloit College


Research Area: Game Theory

Project name: Individual-based Utility Theory, Health Care Seeking Behavior, and Disease Outbreaks

Mentor: Prof. Nina Fefferman, Tufts University and DIMACS

Project Discription:  There exists a fundamental game theoretic dichotomy between the individual and the public good in matters of public health. This dichotomy has been rigorously investigated in certain areas (e.g. Vaccination compliance, quarantine, public health directives in case of pandemic outbreak, etc.), but very little attention has been paid to the impact of this conflict on "normal" diseases: seasonal influenza, the common cold, giardiasis, etc. There are two projects with interactive components: (1) the game theoretic analysis of costs and benefits of seeking health care under different scenarios of disease risk, and (2) characterizing the epidemiological impact of the individual care decisions on predictions of disease outbreaks. Together, the hope is that these projects will provide a theoretical organizational strategy that could be recommended to businesses, local governments and school systems to minimize outbreak severity without too greatly compromising efficiency.