How can we adapt complex population health interventions for new contexts? Progressing debates and research priorities



Evans RE, Moore G, Movsisyan A, Rehfuess E & ADAPT Panel (2021) How can we adapt complex population health interventions for new contexts? Progressing debates and research priorities. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 75 (1), pp. 40-45.

Introduction The UK Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research have funded the ADAPT study (2018–2020), to develop methodological guidance for the adaptation of complex population health interventions for new contexts. While there have been advances in frameworks, there are key theoretical and methodological debates to progress. The ADAPT study convened a panel meeting to identify and enrich these debates. This paper presents the panel’s discussions and suggests directions for future research. Methods Sixteen researchers and one policymaker convened for a 1-day meeting in July 2019. The aim was to reflect on emerging study findings (systematic review of adaptation guidance; scoping review of case examples; and qualitative interviews with funders, journal editors, researchers and policymakers), progress theoretical and methodological debates, and consider where innovation may be required to address research gaps. Discussion Despite the proliferation of adaptation frameworks, questions remain over the definition of basic concepts (eg, adaptation). The rationale for adaptation, which often focuses on differences between contexts, may lead to adaptation hyperactivity. Equal emphasis should be placed on similarities. Decision-making about intervention modification currently privileges the concept of ‘core components’, and work is needed to progress the use and operationalisation of ‘functional fidelity’. Language and methods must advance to ensure meaningful engagement with diverse stakeholders in adaptation processes. Further guidance is required to assess the extent of re-evaluation required in the new context. A better understanding of different theoretical perspectives, notably complex systems thinking, implementation science and realist evaluation may help in enhancing research on adaptation.

Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health; Epidemiology

The ADAPT Panel comprises of Laura Arnold, Julie Bishop, Andrew Booth, Lauren Copeland, Peter Craig, Frances Gardner, Penny Hawe, Pat Hoddinott, Frank Kee, Hannah Littlecott, Laurence Moore, Simon Murphy, Alicia O’ Cathain

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health: Volume 75, Issue 1

FundersMedical Research Council
Publication date31/01/2021
Publication date online27/09/2020
Date accepted by journal24/08/2020

People (1)


Professor Pat Hoddinott

Professor Pat Hoddinott

Chair in Primary Care, NMAHP