By William T. Rile, Ph.D.
“Why fund behavioral intervention research if the interventions found effective are not adopted in practice?” This was a recurring question I heard when meeting with various National Institutes of Health (NIH) institute and center directors to seek their input on the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) 2017-21 Strategic Plan.
Their perspective is consistent with what our field has acknowledged and worked to address: Health researchers in general – and behavioral and social sciences researchers specifically – cannot be satisfied with leaving our research findings at the water’s edge and hoping these findings will be adopted into practice.
Inadequate translation of research findings into practice is not unique to the behavioral and social sciences, but we do face unique challenges. Social and behavioral interventions do not have the extensive market-driven system and regulatory structures of medical interventions. The delivery of these interventions extends far beyond the healthcare setting and includes communities, schools, workplaces, and societal or population-level policies. Resources for delivery of social and behavioral interventions are limited, yet these interventions tend to be complex and resource intensive, requiring time and training to deliver correctly.