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Research design issues for evaluating complex multicomponent interventions in neighborhoods and communities


Major advances in population health will not occur unless we translate existing knowledge into effective multicomponent interventions, implement and maintain these in communities, and develop rigorous translational research and evaluation methods to ensure continual improvement and sustainability. We discuss challenges and offer approaches to evaluation that are key for translational research stages 3 to 5 to advance optimized adoption, implementation, and maintenance of effective and replicable multicomponent strategies. The major challenges we discuss concern (a) multiple contexts of evaluation/research, (b) complexity of packages of interventions, and (c) phases of evaluation/research questions. We suggest multiple alternative research designs that maintain rigor but accommodate these challenges and highlight the need for measurement systems. Longitudinal data collection and a standardized continuous measurement system are fundamental to the evaluation and refinement of complex multicomponent interventions. To be useful to T3–T5 translational research efforts in neighborhoods and communities, such a system would include assessments of the reach, implementation, effects on immediate outcomes, and effects of the comprehensive intervention package on more distal health outcomes.

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A grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA028946) supported the authors’ work on this manuscript. The funders had no role in the manuscript, and the views expressed are solely those of the authors. We thank Christine Cody and Bethany Livingston for their excellent editorial assistance.

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Correspondence to Kelli A. Komro.

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Practice: Develop strong partnerships with researchers to implement and rigorously evaluate innovations for the promotion of health and well-being.

Policy: Fund national longitudinal and standardized measurement systems implemented and usable at the local level to advance the evaluation and refinement of multicomponent interventions to promote health.

Research: Partner with local and state agencies to implement and evaluate complex multicomponent intervention trials using multiple design elements to optimize causal inference.

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Komro, K.A., Flay, B.R., Biglan, A. et al. Research design issues for evaluating complex multicomponent interventions in neighborhoods and communities. Behav. Med. Pract. Policy Res. 6, 153–159 (2016).

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  • Health
  • Well-being
  • Evaluation design
  • Complex intervention
  • Translational research