Adapting evidence-informed complex population health interventions for new contexts: A systematic review of guidance

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Background: Adapting interventions that have worked elsewhere can save resources associated with developing new interventions for each specific context. While a developing body of evidence shows benefits of adapted interventions compared with interventions transported without adaptation, there are also examples of interventions which have been extensively adapted, yet have not worked in the new context. Decisions on when, to what extent, and how to adapt interventions therefore are not straightforward, particularly when conceptualising intervention effects as contingent upon contextual interactions in complex systems. No guidance currently addresses these questions comprehensively. To inform development of an overarching guidance on adaptation of complex population health interventions, this systematic review synthesises the content of the existing guidance papers. Methods: We searched for papers published between January 2000 and October 2018 in 7 bibliographic databases. We used citation tracking and contacted authors and experts to locate further papers. We double screened all the identified records. We extracted data into the following categories: descriptive information, key concepts and definitions, rationale for adaptation, aspects of adaptation, process of adaptation, evaluating and reporting adapted interventions. Data extraction was conducted independently by two reviewers, and retrieved data were synthesised thematically within pre-specified and emergent categories. Results: We retrieved 6694 unique records. Thirty-eight papers were included in the review representing 35 sources of guidance. Most papers were developed in the USA in the context of implementing evidence-informed interventions among different population groups within the country, such as minority populations. We found much agreement on how the papers defined key concepts, aims, and procedures of adaptation, including involvement of key stakeholders, but also identified gaps in scope, conceptualisation, and operationalisation in several categories. Conclusions: Our review found limitations that should be addressed in future guidance on adaptation. Specifically, future guidance needs to be reflective of adaptations in the context of transferring interventions across countries, including macro- (e.g. national-) level interventions, better theorise the role of intervention mechanisms and contextual interactions in the replicability of effects and accordingly conceptualise key concepts, such as fidelity to intervention functions, and finally, suggest evidence-informed strategies for adaptation re-evaluation and reporting. Trial registration: PROSPERO 2018, CRD42018112714.




Movsisyan, A., Arnold, L., Evans, R., Hallingberg, B., Moore, G., O’Cathain, A., … Rehfuess, E. (2019, December 17). Adapting evidence-informed complex population health interventions for new contexts: A systematic review of guidance. Implementation Science. BioMed Central Ltd.

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