Measuring sustainment of prevention programs and initiatives: A study protocol

Lawrence A. Palinkas*, Suzanne E. Spear, Sapna J. Mendon, Juan Villamar, Thomas Valente, Chi Ping Chou, John Landsverk, Shepperd G. Kellam, C. Hendricks Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Sustaining prevention efforts directed at substance use and mental health problems is one of the greatest, yet least understood, challenges in the field of implementation science. A large knowledge gap exists regarding the meaning of the term "sustainment" and what factors predict or even measure sustainability of effective prevention programs and support systems. Methods/design: The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) supports a diverse portfolio of prevention and treatment grant programs that aim to improve population and individual level behavioral health. This study focuses on four SAMHSA prevention grant programs, two of which target substance abuse prevention at the state or single community level, one targets suicide prevention, and one targets prevention of aggressive/disruptive behavior in elementary schools. An examination of all four grant programs simultaneously provides an opportunity to determine what is meant by the term sustainment and identify and support both the unique requirements for improving sustainability for each program as well as for developing a generalizable framework comprised of core components of sustainment across diverse prevention approaches. Based on an analysis of qualitative and quantitative data of 10 grantees supported by these four programs, we will develop a flexible measurement system, with both general and specific components, that can bring precision to monitoring sustainment of infrastructure, activities, and outcomes for each prevention approach. We will then transform this system for use in evaluating and improving the likelihood of achieving prevention effort sustainment. To achieve these goals, we will (1) identify core components of sustainment of prevention programs and their support infrastructures; (2) design a measurement system for monitoring and providing feedback regarding sustainment within the four SAMHSA's prevention-related grant programs; and (3) pilot test the predictability of this multilevel measurement system across these programs and the feasibility and acceptability of a measurement system to evaluate and improve the likelihood of sustainment. Discussion: This project is intended to improve sustainment of the supporting prevention infrastructure, activities, and outcomes that are funded by federal, state, community, and foundation sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number95
JournalImplementation Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 16 2016


  • Implementation
  • Instruments
  • Measures
  • Prevention
  • Substance use
  • Suicide
  • Sustainment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics


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