Evidence-based intervention sustainability strategies
A systematic review
BACKGROUND: Sustainability of evidence-based interventions (EBI) remains a challenge for public health community-based institutions. The conceptual definition of sustainment is not universally agreed upon by researchers and practitioners, and strategies utilized to facilitate sustainment of EBI are not consistently reported in published literature. Given these limitations in the field, a systematic review was conducted to summarize the existing evidence supporting discrete sustainment strategies for public health EBIs and facilitating and hindering factors of sustainment.
METHODS: We searched PsychINFO, Embase, ProQuest, PubMed, and Google Scholar. The initial search was run in March 2017 and an update was done in March 2019. Study eligibility criteria included (a) public health evidence-based interventions, (b) conducted in the community or community-based settings, and (c) reported outcomes related to EBI sustainment. Details characterizing the study setting, design, target population, and type of EBI sustained were extracted.
RESULTS: A total of 26 articles published from 2004 to 2019 were eligible for data extraction. Overall, the importance of sustainability was acknowledged across all of the studies. However, only seven studies presented a conceptual definition of sustainment explicitly within the text. Six of the included studies reported specific sustainment strategies that were used to facilitate the sustainment of EBI. Only three of the studies reported their activities related to sustainment by referencing a sustainment framework. Multiple facilitators (i.e., adaptation/alignment, funding) and barriers (i.e., limited funding, limited resources) were identified as influencing EBI sustainment. The majority (n = 20) of the studies were conducted in high-income countries. Studies from low-income countries were mostly naturalistic. All of the studies from low-income countries reported lack of funding as a hindrance to sustainment.
IMPLICATION FOR DISSEMINATION AND IMPLEMENTATION RESEARCH: Literature focused on sustainment of public health EBIs should present an explicit definition of the concept. Better reporting of the framework utilized, steps followed, and adaptations made to sustain the intervention might contribute to standardizing and developing the concept. Moreover, encouraging longitudinal dissemination and implementation (D&I) research especially in low-income countries might help strengthen D&I research capacity in public health settings.