Objectives: We examined the effect of community coalition network structure on the effectiveness of an intervention designed to accelerate the adoption of evidence-based substance abuse prevention programs.
Methods: At baseline, 24 cities were matched and randomly assigned to 3 conditions (control, satellite TV training, and training plus technical assistance). We surveyed 415 community leaders at baseline and 406 at 18-month follow-up about their attitudes and practices toward substance abuse prevention programs. Network structure was measured by asking leaders whom in their coalition they turned to for advice about prevention programs. The outcome was a scale with 4 subscales: coalition function, planning, achievement of benchmarks, and progress in prevention activities. We used multiple linear regression and path analysis to test hypotheses.
Results: Intervention had a significant effect on decreasing the density of coalition networks. The change in density subsequently increased adoption of evidence-based practices.
Conclusions: Optimal community network structures for the adoption of public health programs are unknown, but it should not be assumed that increasing network density or centralization are appropriate goals. Lower-density networks may be more efficient for organizing evidence-based prevention programs in communities.