Identifying Synergies in Multilevel Interventions: The Convergence Strategy
Social ecological models of health often describe multiple levels of influence that interact to influence health. However, it is still common for interventions to target only one or two of these levels, perhaps owing in part to a lack of guidance on how to design multilevel interventions to achieve optimal impact. The convergence strategy emphasizes that interventions at different levels mutually reinforce each other by changing patterns of interaction among two or more intervention audiences; this strategy is one approach for combining interventions at different levels to produce synergistic effects. We used semistructured interviews with 65 representatives in a cross-site national initiative that enhanced health and outcomes for patients with diabetes to examine whether the convergence strategy was a useful conceptual model for multilevel interventions. Using a framework analysis approach to analyze qualitative interview data, we found three synergistic themes that match the convergence strategy and support how multilevel interventions can be successful. These three themes were (1) enhancing engagement between patient and provider and access to quality care; (2) supporting communication, information sharing, and coordination among providers, community stakeholders, and systems; and (3) building relationships and fostering alignment among providers, community stakeholders, and systems. These results support the convergence strategy as a testable conceptual model and provide examples of successful intervention strategies for combining multilevel interventions to produce synergies across levels and promote diabetes self-management and that may extend to management of other chronic illnesses as well.