The Person-Based Approach to intervention planning

At the planning stage we find five activities useful for developing, describing and refining the ‘programme theory’ for the intervention – the description of how the intervention should work, for whom and in what circumstances. 

1. Reviewing/synthesising relevant literature

An initial theory of how the intervention should work can be created by learning from relevant theory and research (general guidance on literature review is available elsewhere). For the Person-Based Approach we find it particularly useful to learn from qualitative and mixed methods evaluations of similar interventions, to understand the barriers and facilitators influencing engagement with the intervention.

2. User needs studies

If review of the literature reveals evidence gaps then studies may need to be carried out to address unanswered questions – for example, if the intervention or the healthcare problem it addresses is novel so there is little relevant previous research. The choice of methods to address the evidence gap will depend on the research question. Qualitative studies (e.g. focus groups, interviews, ethnography) are often helpful to help intervention developers understand the users’ needs and perspectives and the contexts in which the intervention will be implemented. Click here to see more information about user needs studies.

3. Logic model /‘theory of change’

This is a diagram that summarises the cause-effect sequence describing how the key elements of the intervention should lead to positive behaviour change and better health. Creating a logic model is best practice common to most approaches to intervention development so there is already guidance elsewhere on how to do this. 

4. Intervention planning table

This table brings together all the available evidence about exactly what elements are needed in the intervention and why, drawing on theory, research, and the expertise of all members of the intervention development team, including public contributors and other stakeholders (see below for details). The table helps by capturing key pieces of information and early decisions in one place so that it is easy for the whole team to see and discuss the evolving picture. Click here to see more information about creating an intervention planning table.

5. Guiding principles for intervention design

The guiding principles focus on what is needed to make the intervention acceptable, feasible and engaging for the users it is designed for. A few key guiding principles can help keep the development focused on what will be especially appealing and useful to the intended users. Click here to see more information about guiding principles.

A comprehensive intervention planning paper covering behavioural analysis, user needs studies, logic model and guiding principles:

Band, R., Bradbury, K., Morton, K., May, C., Michie, S., Mair, F. S., Murray, E., McManus R. J., Little, P. & Yardley, L. (2017). Intervention planning for a digital intervention for self-management of hypertension: a theory-, evidence- and person-based approach. Implementation Science, 12(1), 25.

Click here to find more papers relating to intervention planning.