Program Impact Pathways and Contexts: A Commentary on Theoretical Issues and Research Applications to Support the EsIAN Component of Mexico's Conditional Cash Transfer Program

J Nutr. 2019 Dec 1;149(Suppl 1):2332S-2340S. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz221.


This commentary on the Integrated Strategy for Attention to Nutrition (EsIAN) journal supplement begins with a discussion about the challenges that implementation researchers confront with respect to analyzing complex impact pathways. We note that the research on the implementation of the EsIAN component of Mexico's conditional cash transfer program was based implicitly or explicitly on a program impact pathway approach, which used both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine bottlenecks in program implementation. We then identify 5 categories of contexts that affect the impact, implementation, and survival of intervention programs: 1) biological, 2) social-cultural, 3) delivery modalities and platforms, 4) bureaucratic, and 5) political. Each of these contexts presents theoretical and methodological challenges for investigators. In this commentary, we focus primarily on biological and social-cultural contexts, discussing the theoretical and methodological challenges the investigators faced and the research strategies they used to address them, which have produced a unique compilation of "learning by doing" studies. We also touch briefly on the political context in which the Prospera program research was conducted. We conclude with statements that highlight the exceptional value of the journal supplement, not only with respect to the analysis of the interventions the studies cover and the sustained examination of a long-term program but also as a major contribution to the literature in implementation science in nutrition.

Keywords: Mexico; context; implementation research; pathways; program theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Culture
  • Dietary Supplements / economics*
  • Food, Fortified*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mexico
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Norms
  • Social Welfare / economics*