, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 208-215

Sustainability of evidence-based community-based physical activity programs for older adults: lessons from Active for Life

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Abstract

Program sustainability in community and healthcare settings is critical to realizing the translation of research into practice. The purpose of this study is to describe the implementation and assessment of an intervention to increase organizational maintenance of evidence-based physical activity programs and the factors that impede or facilitate sustainability. All organizations implemented a sustainability action plan that included identifying factors related to sustainability, examining resources available, identifying program modifications to enhance sustainability, and long-term action planning. A mixed methods approach was used. Organizational (n = 12 sites) ability to demonstrate program effectiveness, align priorities with the organizational mission, and integrate the program within the existing infrastructure were strengths related to sustainability. Sites were more optimistic about program sustainability when they had less reliance on internal financial, but more reliance on internal human resources to run the program post-funding. The study resulted in a number of tools that can help community organizations plan for sustainability of physical activity programs.

Implications

Practice: Programs are more likely to be sustained when there is a balance of internal and external financial support, programs are integrated into ongoing organizational activities and structure, and program champions are engaged to provide support for program continuation.
Policy: Organizational decision makers should consider changes in job descriptions for staff who are intended to deliver new, evidence-based physical activity programs to heighten the possibility of sustainability.
Research: This is a descriptive study of an intervention to promote sustainability of evidence-based physical activity programs; thus, more rigorous designs to determine the effectiveness of this approach are needed.