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PROMISES AND CHALLENGES OF BEHAVIORAL INTERVENTION RESEARCH

An epidemiologist conducts a study showing a strong empirical link between caregiver physical strain and nursing home placement of frail older adults. He now wants to develop an intervention to help minimize the caregiver’s physical strain and prevent residential relocation of the older adult.

A clinician scientist observes that her cancer survivor patients tend to have cognitive and functional complaints that are stressful to them. The literature provides evidence for these relationships and factors that contribute to them, but no interventions that address this distressful phenomenon. She seeks to develop an intervention that would help this growing clinical population.

A family member of a behavioral researcher has a life-altering health care event and experiences significant gaps when transitioning among care contexts, highlighting the critical need to develop and test strategies to improve care continuity.

A team consisting of academic and senior center directors implemented an evidence-based program in the senior center to improve chronic disease management. They find that it is less acceptable to and effective for their African American members and that it needs modification to improve its reach to and adoption by diverse groups.

A health care system seeks to adopt a proven health promotion intervention, but it is too costly to deliver to rural populations as originally designed. They partner with researchers to examine the effectiveness of using technology for its delivery.

These are real examples of the common pathways that lead practitioners, health and human service professionals, and novice and experienced researchers to embrace the need for and engage in behavioral intervention research. Behavioral interventions start with a specified problem and are designed to address pressing identifiable and documented public health issues or policy gaps, service delivery snafus, health disparities, or the need for better, more cost-efficient care approaches. Such interventions encompass a wide range of strategies that can involve manipulating cognitive, behavioral, physical, environmental, and/or psychosocial processes to improve outcomes for a targeted population or community. Interventions may be directed at individuals, families, communities, or organizations or their combination, and target cognitions (e.g., coping mechanisms, cognitive framing, problem solving), behaviors (e.g., communications, lifestyle choices, medication adherence), emotional or affective well-being, physical health and functioning, physical or social environments, policies, health care practices, or service delivery mechanisms and training. Behavioral interventions are relevant to and important for individuals of any age group, race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or culture, as well as families, communities, organizations, and societies at large.

 
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