Obesity in Western Pennsylvania


Carnegie Mellon University

Alison Hu, Gary Tang, Sarah Xi, Emily Wu


Nearly 40% of adult Americans are diagnosed with obesity, a preventable disease with links to heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Globally and nationally, one in five children and adolescents are overweight. Obesity itself does not discriminate – the basic assumption is that anyone can experience it, largely due to their own choices. However, our map seeks to dissect the myriad of systemic issues that concentrate obesity likelihood at the lower ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. We aimed to depict the complex issues overshadowed by base assumptions.

Since obesity is preventable, it would seem natural to simply cut back on the calorie intake and perhaps hop on an elliptical. However, to approach this wicked problem without realizing the various effects of environmental, political, technological, and economic factors is to not see the issue at all.

Our team created the following map to draw out the causes and implications of the multi-faceted problem. This map uses categorical labels to develop a rich holistic picture of the problem, allowing us to understand obesity as a problem of many roots and within multiple hierarchies. Our group could create this visual guide that tells the story of obesity as we know it and granted us the knowledge to propose design intervention through Meadows’ leverage points.


Author. (2020). Article title. In Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD9) 2020 Symposium. India, October 9-17, 2020.

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Posted Oct-2020


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Author(s) (20XX). Article title. In Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSDX) 20XX Symposium. City, Country, Month X-X, 20XX.

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Systems Mapping

Birger Sevaldson of the Oslo School of Architecture and Design first introduced the gigamap technique. The gigamap takes an architectural and descriptive approach to complex projects. The technique has been extended to synthesis maps and system design complexity maps.

The synthesis map is used at OCAD University to translate multiple knowledge perspectives and illustrate the dilemmas and challenges within a complex system scenario. System design complexity maps are the outcome of an academic project at the National Institute of Design. They use metaphor and a central theme to make complex issues accessible for sharing and participatory work with multiple stakeholders.

Types of Systemic Relations (Urban Habitat Design) by Birger Sevaldson, RSD5

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