An Intervention to Improve Program Implementation

Findings from a Two -Year Cluster Randomized Trial of Assets-Getting to Outcomes

Published In: Implementation Science, v. 8, no. 87, 2013, p. 1-16

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2013

by Joie D. Acosta, Matthew Chinman, Patricia A. Ebener, Patrick S Malone, Susan M. Paddock, Andrea Phillips, Peter C Scales, Mary Ellen Slaughter

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Research Question

  1. Does Assets Getting to Outcomes (AGTO), an intervention to support implementation of a youth development approach to prevention, improve program performance?

BACKGROUND: Studies have shown that communities have not always been able to implement evidence-based prevention programs with quality and achieve outcomes demonstrated by prevention science. Implementation support interventions are needed to bridge this gap between science and practice. The purpose of this article is to present two-year outcomes from an evaluation of the Assets Getting To Outcomes (AGTO) intervention in 12 Maine communities engaged in promoting Developmental Assets, a positive youth development approach to prevention. AGTO is an implementation support intervention that consists of: a manual of text and tools; face-to-face training, and onsite technical assistance, focused on activities shown to be associated with obtaining positive results across any prevention program. METHODS: This study uses a nested and cross-sectional, cluster randomized controlled design. Participants were coalition members and program staff from 12 communities in Maine. Each coalition nominated up to five prevention programs to participate. At random, six coalitions and their respective 30 programs received the two-year AGTO intervention and the other six maintained routine operations. The study assessed prevention practitioner capacity (efficacy and behaviors), practitioner exposure to and use of AGTO, practitioner perceptions of AGTO, and prevention program performance. Capacity of coalition members and performance of their programs were compared between the two groups across the baseline, one-, and two-year time points. RESULTS: We found no significant differences between AGTO and control group's prevention capacity. However, within the AGTO group, significant differences were found between those with greater exposure to and use of AGTO. Programs that received the highest number of technical assistance hours showed the most program improvement. CONCLUSIONS: This study is the first of its kind to show that use of an implementation support intervention-AGTO -yielded improvements in practitioner capacity and consequently in program performance on a large sample of practitioners and programs using a randomized controlled design.

Key Finding

  • Use of AGTO improved practitioners' capacity for high-quality implementation. It also improved program implementation quality.

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