Ronan Arthur (PhD) is a postdoctoral scholar in the Stanford School of Medicine and in the Department of Biology. Ronan studies adaptive behavior and community trust during epidemics through mathematical modeling techniques and empirical work in Liberia. Current research includes: hospital hand hygiene in Liberia; hospital ventilation in rural Liberia; adaptive behavior during epidemics with age-structure; quantifying gene-culture co-evolution; trust of government and health system during COVID-19 in Liberia; and agent-based modeling of COVID-19 and Ebola Virus Disease.

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • Community trust of government and non-governmental organizations during the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic in Liberia. PLoS neglected tropical diseases Arthur, R. F., Horng, L. M., Bolay, F. K., Tandanpolie, A., Gilstad, J. R., Tantum, L. K., Luby, S. P. 1800; 16 (1): e0010083


    The West African Ebola Virus Disease epidemic of 2014-16 cost more than 11,000 lives. Interventions targeting key behaviors to curb transmission, such as safe funeral practices and reporting and isolating the ill, were initially unsuccessful in a climate of fear, mistrust, and denial. Building trust was eventually recognized as essential to epidemic response and prioritized, and trust was seen to improve toward the end of the epidemic as incidence fell. However, little is understood about how and why trust changed during Ebola, what factors were most influential to community trust, and how different institutions might have been perceived under different levels of exposure to the outbreak. In this large-N household survey conducted in Liberia in 2018, we measured self-reported trust over time retrospectively in three different communities with different exposures to Ebola. We found trust was consistently higher for non-governmental organizations than for the government of Liberia across all time periods. Trust reportedly decreased significantly from the start to the peak of the epidemic in the study site of highest Ebola incidence. This finding, in combination with a negative association found between knowing someone infected and trust of both iNGOs and the government, indicates the experience of Ebola may have itself caused a decline of trust in the community. These results suggest that national governments should aim to establish trust when engaging communities to change behavior during epidemics. Further research on the relationship between trust and epidemics may serve to improve epidemic response efficacy and behavior uptake.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pntd.0010083

    View details for PubMedID 35085236

  • Barriers and Opportunities for Sustainable Hand Hygiene Interventions in Rural Liberian Hospitals. International journal of environmental research and public health Tantum, L. K., Gilstad, J. R., Bolay, F. K., Horng, L. M., Simpson, A. D., Letizia, A. G., Styczynski, A. R., Luby, S. P., Arthur, R. F. 2021; 18 (16)


    Hand hygiene is central to hospital infection control. During the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola virus disease epidemic in Liberia, gaps in hand hygiene infrastructure and health worker training contributed to hospital-based Ebola transmission. Hand hygiene interventions were undertaken post-Ebola, but many improvements were not sustainable. This study characterizes barriers to, and facilitators of, hand hygiene in rural Liberian hospitals and evaluates readiness for sustainable, locally derived interventions to improve hand hygiene. Research enumerators collected data at all hospitals in Bong and Lofa counties, Liberia, in the period March-May 2020. Enumerators performed standardized spot checks of hand hygiene infrastructure and supplies, structured observations of hand hygiene behavior, and semi-structured key informant interviews for thematic analysis. During spot checks, hospital staff reported that handwashing container water was always available in 89% (n = 42) of hospital wards, piped running water in 23% (n = 11), and soap in 62% (n = 29). Enumerators observed 5% of wall-mounted hand sanitizer dispensers (n = 8) and 95% of pocket-size dispensers (n = 53) to be working. In interviews, hospital staff described willingness to purchase personal hand sanitizer dispensers when hospital-provided supplies were unavailable. Low-cost, sustainable interventions should address supply and infrastructure-related obstacles to hospital hand hygiene improvement.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/ijerph18168588

    View details for PubMedID 34444337

  • Adaptive social contact rates induce complex dynamics during epidemics. PLoS computational biology Arthur, R. F., Jones, J. H., Bonds, M. H., Ram, Y., Feldman, M. W. 2021; 17 (2): e1008639


    Epidemics may pose a significant dilemma for governments and individuals. The personal or public health consequences of inaction may be catastrophic; but the economic consequences of drastic response may likewise be catastrophic. In the face of these trade-offs, governments and individuals must therefore strike a balance between the economic and personal health costs of reducing social contacts and the public health costs of neglecting to do so. As risk of infection increases, potentially infectious contact between people is deliberately reduced either individually or by decree. This must be balanced against the social and economic costs of having fewer people in contact, and therefore active in the labor force or enrolled in school. Although the importance of adaptive social contact on epidemic outcomes has become increasingly recognized, the most important properties of coupled human-natural epidemic systems are still not well understood. We develop a theoretical model for adaptive, optimal control of the effective social contact rate using traditional epidemic modeling tools and a utility function with delayed information. This utility function trades off the population-wide contact rate with the expected cost and risk of increasing infections. Our analytical and computational analysis of this simple discrete-time deterministic strategic model reveals the existence of an endemic equilibrium, oscillatory dynamics around this equilibrium under some parametric conditions, and complex dynamic regimes that shift under small parameter perturbations. These results support the supposition that infectious disease dynamics under adaptive behavior change may have an indifference point, may produce oscillatory dynamics without other forcing, and constitute complex adaptive systems with associated dynamics. Implications for any epidemic in which adaptive behavior influences infectious disease dynamics include an expectation of fluctuations, for a considerable time, around a quasi-equilibrium that balances public health and economic priorities, that shows multiple peaks and surges in some scenarios, and that implies a high degree of uncertainty in mathematical projections.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008639

    View details for PubMedID 33566839

  • Risk and Response to Biological Catastrophe in Lower Income Countries. Current topics in microbiology and immunology Luby, S., Arthur, R. 2019


    Natural and intentional biological risks threaten human civilization, both through direct human fatality as well as follow-on effects from a collapse of the just-in-time delivery system that provides food, energy and critical supplies to communities globally. Human beings have multiple innate cognitive biases that systematically impair careful consideration of these risks. Residents of low-income countries, especially those who live in rural areas and are less dependent upon global trade, may be the most resilient communities to catastrophic risks, but low-income countries also present a heightened risk for biological catastrophe. Hotspots for the emergence of new zoonotic diseases are predominantly located in low-income countries. Crowded, poorly supplied healthcare facilities in low-income countries provide an optimal environment for new pathogens to transmit to a next host and adapt for more efficient person-to-person transmission. Strategies to address these risks include overcoming our natural biases and recognizing the importance of these risks, avoiding an over-reliance on developing specific biological countermeasures, developing generalized social and behavioral responses and investing in resilience.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/82_2019_162

    View details for PubMedID 31127360

  • Contact structure, mobility, environmental impact and behaviour: the importance of social forces to infectious disease dynamics and disease ecology PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Arthur, R. F., Gurley, E. S., Salje, H., Bloomfield, L. S., Jones, J. H. 2017; 372 (1719)


    Human factors, including contact structure, movement, impact on the environment and patterns of behaviour, can have significant influence on the emergence of novel infectious diseases and the transmission and amplification of established ones. As anthropogenic climate change alters natural systems and global economic forces drive land-use and land-cover change, it becomes increasingly important to understand both the ecological and social factors that impact infectious disease outcomes for human populations. While the field of disease ecology explicitly studies the ecological aspects of infectious disease transmission, the effects of the social context on zoonotic pathogen spillover and subsequent human-to-human transmission are comparatively neglected in the literature. The social sciences encompass a variety of disciplines and frameworks for understanding infectious diseases; however, here we focus on four primary areas of social systems that quantitatively and qualitatively contribute to infectious diseases as social-ecological systems. These areas are social mixing and structure, space and mobility, geography and environmental impact, and behaviour and behaviour change. Incorporation of these social factors requires empirical studies for parametrization, phenomena characterization and integrated theoretical modelling of social-ecological interactions. The social-ecological system that dictates infectious disease dynamics is a complex system rich in interacting variables with dynamically significant heterogeneous properties. Future discussions about infectious disease spillover and transmission in human populations need to address the social context that affects particular disease systems by identifying and measuring qualitatively important drivers.This article is part of the themed issue 'Opening the black box: re-examining the ecology and evolution of parasite transmission'.

    View details for DOI 10.1098/rstb.2016.0454

    View details for Web of Science ID 000397800300016

    View details for PubMedID 28289265

  • Contact structure, mobility, environmental impact and behaviour: the importance of social forces to infectious disease dynamics and disease ecology Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Arthur, R. F., Gurley, E. S., Salje, H., Bloomfield, L. S., Jones, J. H. 2016; 372 (1719)

    View details for DOI 10.1098/rstb.2016.0454

  • Understanding Tribal Fates SCIENCE Arthur, R., Diamond, J. 2011; 334 (6058): 911-912

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1213787

    View details for Web of Science ID 000297101800033

    View details for PubMedID 22096177