Commentary for Special Issue on Using Baseline Target Moderation to Assess Variation in Prevention Impact: When (and How) to Revise Our Programs

Prev Sci. 2023 Feb;24(2):299-303. doi: 10.1007/s11121-022-01458-1. Epub 2022 Nov 23.


Developing a better understanding of sources and mechanisms of heterogeneity is a key route to improving outcomes and targeting of preventive interventions. This commentary attempts to draw together findings from eight intervention trials in this special issue, each exploring baseline target moderation (BTM) or baseline target moderated mediation (BTMM). It considers their implications for prevention research and program design, particularly the question of whether they can help us to revise or adapt interventions. The studies cover a range of interventions, targets, and contexts, including parenting, couple, and CBT interventions, for depression, anxiety, conduct problems, or obesity. Some important findings stand out. Where studies found moderator effects, they tended to operate in a "compensatory" fashion, such that greater benefit was found in higher risk groups, suggesting that closer targeting might be warranted. It was rare for harmful effects to be detected for any subgroups. In other respects, patterns of BTM/BTMM findings were quite mixed across studies, suggesting it would be premature to change our interventions based on these trials. Implications of the findings for equity, for "slimming down" and scaling up interventions, and for research are discussed, including the need to combine BTMM with intervention component research, and to accumulate a more robust body of evidence by pooling data across trials.

Keywords: Equity; Mediation; Moderation; Preventive intervention effects.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Humans
  • Parenting*
  • Problem Behavior*
  • Research Design