How do researchers conceptualize and plan for the sustainability of their NIH R01 implementation projects?
BACKGROUND: Inadequate sustainability of implementation of evidence-based interventions has led to calls for research on how sustainability can be optimized. To advance our understanding of intervention sustainability, we explored how implementation researchers conceptualized and planned for the sustainability of their implemented interventions with studies funded by the United States (US) National Institutes of Health (NIH).
METHODS: We used sequential, mixed methods to explore how researchers conceptualized and planned for the sustainability of the health interventions using (1) a document review of all active and completed US NIH R01 Grants and Equivalents reviewed within the Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health (DIRH) Study Section between 2004 and 2016 and (2) a qualitative content analysis of semi-structured interviews with NIH R01 DIRH grant recipients.
RESULTS: We found 277 R01 profiles within the DIRH study section listed on the US NIH RePORTER website including 84 that were eligible for screening. Of the 84 unique projects, 76 (90.5%) had primary implementation outcomes. Of the 76 implementation project profiles, 51 (67.1%) made references to sustainability and none referred to sustainability planning. In both profiles and interviews, researchers conceptualized sustainability primarily as the continued delivery of interventions, programs, or implementation strategies. Few researchers referenced frameworks with sustainability constructs and offered limited information on how they operationalized frameworks. Researchers described broad categories of approaches and strategies to promote sustainability and key factors that may influence researchers to plan for sustainability, such as personal beliefs, self-efficacy, perception of their role, and the challenges of the grant funding system.
CONCLUSIONS: We explored how US NIH R01 DIRH grant recipients conceptualized and planned for the sustainability of their interventions. Our results identified the need to test, consolidate, and provide guidance on how to operationalize sustainability frameworks, and to develop strategies on how funders and researchers can advance sustainability research.
Johnson, A. M., Moore, J. E., Chambers, D. A., Rup, J., Dinyarian, C., & Straus, S. E. (2019). How do researchers conceptualize and plan for the sustainability of their NIH R01 implementation projects? Implement Sci, 14(1), 50. doi:10.1186/s13012-019-0895-1