Qualitative approaches to use of the RE-AIM framework: rationale and methods

BMC Health Serv Res. 2018 Mar 13;18(1):177. doi: 10.1186/s12913-018-2938-8.


Background: There have been over 430 publications using the RE-AIM model for planning and evaluation of health programs and policies, as well as numerous applications of the model in grant proposals and national programs. Full use of the model includes use of qualitative methods to understand why and how results were obtained on different RE-AIM dimensions, however, recent reviews have revealed that qualitative methods have been used infrequently. Having quantitative and qualitative methods and results iteratively inform each other should enhance understanding and lessons learned.

Methods: Because there have been few published examples of qualitative approaches and methods using RE-AIM for planning or assessment and no guidance on how qualitative approaches can inform these processes, we provide guidance on qualitative methods to address the RE-AIM model and its various dimensions. The intended audience is researchers interested in applying RE-AIM or similar implementation models, but the methods discussed should also be relevant to those in community or clinical settings.

Results: We present directions for, examples of, and guidance on how qualitative methods can be used to address each of the five RE-AIM dimensions. Formative qualitative methods can be helpful in planning interventions and designing for dissemination. Summative qualitative methods are useful when used in an iterative, mixed methods approach for understanding how and why different patterns of results occur.

Conclusions: In summary, qualitative and mixed methods approaches to RE-AIM help understand complex situations and results, why and how outcomes were obtained, and contextual factors not easily assessed using quantitative measures.

Keywords: Assessment; Evaluation; Methods; Qualitative; Re-aim.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Research / methods*
  • Humans
  • Models, Organizational*
  • Qualitative Research*