Designs for Testing Group-Based Interventions with Limited Numbers of Social Units: The Dynamic Wait-Listed and Regression Point Displacement Designs

Prev Sci. 2015 Oct;16(7):956-66. doi: 10.1007/s11121-014-0535-6.


The dynamic wait-listed design (DWLD) and regression point displacement design (RPDD) address several challenges in evaluating group-based interventions when there is a limited number of groups. Both DWLD and RPDD utilize efficiencies that increase statistical power and can enhance balance between community needs and research priorities. The DWLD blocks on more time units than traditional wait-listed designs, thereby increasing the proportion of a study period during which intervention and control conditions can be compared, and can also improve logistics of implementing intervention across multiple sites and strengthen fidelity. We discuss DWLDs in the larger context of roll-out randomized designs and compare it with its cousin the Stepped Wedge design. The RPDD uses archival data on the population of settings from which intervention unit(s) are selected to create expected posttest scores for units receiving intervention, to which actual posttest scores are compared. High pretest-posttest correlations give the RPDD statistical power for assessing intervention impact even when one or a few settings receive intervention. RPDD works best when archival data are available over a number of years prior to and following intervention. If intervention units were not randomly selected, propensity scores can be used to control for non-random selection factors. Examples are provided of the DWLD and RPDD used to evaluate, respectively, suicide prevention training (QPR) in 32 schools and a violence prevention program (CeaseFire) in two Chicago police districts over a 10-year period. How DWLD and RPDD address common threats to internal and external validity, as well as their limitations, are discussed.

Keywords: Dynamic wait-listed design; Group-based designs; Regression point displacement design; Roll-out designs; Small sample designs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Regression Analysis
  • Research Design
  • Waiting Lists*