When Evidence is Not Enough: The Challenge of Implementing Fall Prevention Strategies

Dean Fixsen, Vicky Scott, Karen Blase, Sandra Naoom, Lori Wagar
As the evidence-based movement has advanced in public health, changes in public health practices have lagged far behind creating a science to service gap. For example, science has produced effective falls prevention interventions for older adults. It now is clearer WHAT needs to be done to reduce injury and death related to falls. However, issues have arisen regarding HOW to assure the full and effective uses of evidence-based programs in practice. Summary: Lessons learned from the science and practice of implementation provide guidance for how to change practices by developing new competencies, how to change organizations to support evidence-based practices, and how to change public health systems to align system functions with desired practices. The combination of practice, organization, and system change likely will produce the public health benefits that are the promise of evidence-based falls prevention interventions. IMPACT ON PUBLIC HEALTH: For the past several decades, the emphasis has been solely on evidence-based interventions. Public health will benefit from giving equal emphasis to evidence-based implementation. Impact on Industry: We now have over two decades of research on the effectiveness of fall prevention interventions. The quality of this research is judged by a number of credible international organizations, including the Cochrane Collaboration (http://www.cochrane.org/), the American and British Geriatrics Societies, and the Campbell Collaboration (http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/). These international bodies were formed to ponder and answer questions related to the quality and relevance of research. These developments are a good first step. However, while knowing WHAT to do (an evidence-based intervention) is critical, we also need to know HOW to effectively implement the evidence. Implementation, organization change, and system change methods produce the conditions that allow and support the full and effective use of evidence-based interventions. It is time to focus on utilization of implementation knowledge in public health. Without this focus the vast amount on new evidence being generated on the prevention of falls and related injuries among older adults will have little impact on their health and safety.

Fixsen, D., Scott, V., Blase, K., Naoom, S., & Wagar, L. (2011). When Evidence is Not Enough: The Challenge of Implementing Fall Prevention Strategies. Journal of Safety Research (Special Issue), 42(6), 419-422.