Population health intervention research: the place of theories
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BACKGROUND: An international workshop on population health intervention research (PHIR) was organized to foster exchanges between experts from different disciplines and different fields. This paper aims to summarize the discussions around some of the issues addressed: (1) the place of theories in PHIR, (2) why theories can be useful, and (3) how to choose and use the most relevant of them in evaluating PHIR. METHODS: The workshop included formal presentations by participants and moderated discussions. An oral synthesis was produced by a rapporteur to validate, through an expert consensus, the key points of the discussion and the recommendations. All discussions were recorded and have been fully transcribed. RESULTS: The following recommendations were generated through a consensus in the workshop discussions: (i) The evaluation of interventions, like their development, could be improved through better use of theory. (ii) The referenced theory and framework must be clarified. (iii) An intervention theory should be developed by a partnership of researchers and practitioners. (iv) More use of social theory is recommended. (v) Frameworks and a common language are helpful in selecting and communicating a theory. (vi) Better reporting of interventions and theories is needed. CONCLUSION: Theory-driven interventions and evaluations are key in PHIR as they facilitate the understanding of mechanisms of change. There are many challenges in developing the most appropriate theories for interventions and evaluations. With the wealth of information now being generated, this subject is of increasing importance at many levels, including for public health policy. It is, therefore, timely to consider how to build on the experiences of many different disciplines to enable the development of better theories and facilitate evidence-based decisions.
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