The cultural adaptation of prevention interventions: resolving tensions between fidelity and fit

Prev Sci. 2004 Mar;5(1):41-5. doi: 10.1023/


A dynamic tension has developed in prevention science regarding two imperatives: (a) fidelity of implementation-the delivery of a manualized prevention intervention program as prescribed by the program developer, and (b) program adaptation-the modification of program content to accommodate the needs of a specific consumer group. This paper examines this complex programmatic issue from a community-based participatory research approach for program adaptation that emphasizes motivating community participation to enhance program outcomes. Several issues, key concepts, and implementation strategies are presented under a strategic approach to address issues of fidelity and adaptation. Despite the noted tension between fidelity and adaptation, both are essential elements of prevention intervention program design and they are best addressed by a planned, organized, and systematic approach. Towards this aim, an innovative program design strategy is to develop hybrid prevention programs that "build in" adaptation to enhance program fit while also maximizing fidelity of implementation and program effectiveness.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Preventive Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Program Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • Research Design / standards*
  • United States