A mixed-methods protocol for identifying successful sustainability strategies for nutrition and physical activity interventions in childcare

Implement Sci Commun. 2021 Jan 14;2(1):8. doi: 10.1186/s43058-021-00108-x.


Background: Despite the importance of sustainability for nutrition and physical activity in public health interventions, limited studies have explored the factors that promote and inhibit evidence-based program sustainment in the childcare setting. This study protocol describes a mixed-methods approach to develop novel sustainability strategies based on real-world settings and stakeholder feedback, with the goal of providing support for future obesity prevention programs and related studies on intervention sustainability. Two interventions, Together, We Inspire Smart Eating (WISE) and The Food Friends' (FF) Fun with New Foods and Get Movin' with Might Moves, are studied to this end.

Methods: The study will deploy an explanatory, sequential mixed-methods design. First, the research team will collect a quantitative survey to assess rates of sustainment among WISE and Food Friends sites. We expect to collect 150 surveys from WISE and FF sites combined. Data from these surveys will be used to purposively sample sites for 12 to 18 site visits. Specifically, we will purposively sample low, partial, and high sustaining sites where we will conduct key informant interviews and focus groups as well as validate self-reports on sustainability. Survey content, qualitative interviews, and coding will be based on the Dynamic Sustainability Framework. We will draw on findings from the quantitative survey on predictors of sustainment and the qualitative site visits to understand varying levels of program sustainment. Then, we will utilize evidence-based quality improvement sessions to engage stakeholders in developing a multi-component sustainability strategy.

Discussion: This study will provide a stakeholder-informed sustainability strategy ready for testing in a full-scale trial examining effects on sustainment of evidence-based nutrition and physical activity practices in childcare. We expect this strategy to be relevant for educators and consistent with the views of administrators as a guide for future practice for the targeted nutrition and physical activity interventions and beyond.

Keywords: Childcare; Implementation science; Nutrition; Physical activity; Sustainment.