Background: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) develops tools to support implementation of evidence-based interventions for school health. To advance understanding of factors influencing the use of these implementation tools, we conducted an evaluation of state, school district, and local school staffs' use of four CDC tools to support implementation of physical activity, nutrition, health education, and parent engagement. Two frameworks guided the evaluation: Interactive Systems Framework (ISF) for Dissemination and Implementation and Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR).
Methods: The evaluation applied a mixed methods, cross-sectional design that included online surveys (n = 69 state staff from 43 states), phone interviews (n = 13 state staff from 6 states), and in-person interviews (n = 90 district and school staff from 8 districts in 5 states). Descriptive analyses were applied to surveys and content analysis to interviews.
Results: The survey found that the majority of state staff surveyed was aware of three of the CDC tools but most were knowledgeable and confident in their ability to use only two. These same two tools were the ones for which states were most likely to have provided training and technical assistance in the past year. Interviews provided insight into how tools were used and why use varied, with themes organized within the ISF domain "support strategies" (e.g., training, technical assistance) and four CFIR domains: (1) characteristics of tools, (2) inner setting, (3) outer setting, and (4) individuals. Overall, tools were valued for the credibility of their source (CDC) and evidence strength and quality. Respondents reported that tools were too complex for use by school staff. However, if tools were adaptable and compatible with inner and outer setting factors, state and district staff were willing and able to adapt tools for school use.
Conclusions: Implementation tools are essential to supporting broad-scale implementation of evidence-based interventions. This study illustrates how CFIR and ISF might be applied to evaluate factors influencing tools' use and provides recommendations for designing tools to fit within the multi-tiered systems involved in promoting, supporting, and implementing evidence-based interventions in schools. Findings have relevance for the design of implementation tools for use by other multi-tiered systems.