Open Access Research

Using process evaluation for program improvement in dose, fidelity and reach: the ACT trial experience

Dawn K Wilson1*, Sarah Griffin2, Ruth P Saunders3, Heather Kitzman-Ulrich1, Duncan C Meyers1 and Leslie Mansard1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, 29208, USA

2 Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Heath, Education, and Human Development, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, 29634, USA

3 Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, 29208, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2009, 6:79  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-6-79

Published: 30 November 2009

Abstract

Background

The purpose of this study was to demonstrate how formative program process evaluation was used to improve dose and fidelity of implementation, as well as reach of the intervention into the target population, in the "Active by Choice Today" (ACT) randomized school-based trial from years 1 to 3 of implementation.

Methods

The intervention integrated constructs from Self-Determination Theory and Social Cognitive Theory to enhance intrinsic motivation and behavioral skills for increasing long-term physical activity (PA) behavior in underserved adolescents (low income, minorities). ACT formative process data were examined at the end of each year to provide timely, corrective feedback to keep the intervention "on track".

Results

Between years 1 and 2 and years 2 and 3, three significant changes were made to attempt to increase dose and fidelity rates in the program delivery and participant attendance (reach). These changes included expanding the staff training, reformatting the intervention manual, and developing a tracking system for contacting parents of students who were not attending the after-school programs regularly. Process outcomes suggest that these efforts resulted in notable improvements in attendance, dose, and fidelity of intervention implementation from years 1 to 2 and 2 to 3 of the ACT trial.

Conclusion

Process evaluation methods, particularly implementation monitoring, are useful tools to ensure fidelity in intervention trials and for identifying key best practices for intervention delivery.