Background: It is widely acknowledged that prevention research often is not fully or adequately used in health practice and/or policies. This study sought to answer two main questions: (1) Are there characteristics of research utilization in communities that suggest stages in a process? (2) What factors, including barriers and facilitators, are associated with the use of prevention research in community-based programs, policies, and practices?
Methods: Researchers used a multiple case study design to retrospectively describe the research-utilization process. A conceptual framework modified from Rogers's diffusion of innovations model and Green's theory of participation were used. Data were gathered from archival sources and interviews with key people related to any one of seven community-based practices, programs, or policies. Fifty-two semistructured interviews were conducted with program or project staff members, funding agency project managers, community administrators and leaders, community project liaisons, innovation champions, and other members of the research user system.
Results: Participation in the process of research utilization was described by using characteristics of collaborative efforts among stakeholders. Program champions or agents linking research resources to the community moved the research-utilization process forward. Practices, programs, or policies characterized by greater community participation generally resulted in more advanced stages of research utilization.
Conclusions: Investigating the interactions among and contributions of linking agents and resource and user systems can illuminate the potential paths of prevention research utilization in community settings. Because community participation is a critical factor in research utilization, prevention researchers must take into account the context and needs of communities throughout the research process.