The Person-Based Approach to intervention planning
At the planning stage we find five activities useful for developing, describing and refining the ‘programme theory’ for the intervention – the description of how the intervention should work, for whom and in what circumstances.
1. Reviewing/synthesising relevant literature
An initial theory of how the intervention should work can be created by learning from relevant theory and research (general guidance on literature review is available elsewhere). For the Person-Based Approach we find it particularly useful to learn from qualitative and mixed methods evaluations of similar interventions, to understand the barriers and facilitators influencing engagement with the intervention.
2. User needs studies
If review of the literature reveals evidence gaps then studies may need to be carried out to address unanswered questions – for example, if the intervention or the healthcare problem it addresses is novel so there is little relevant previous research. The choice of methods to address the evidence gap will depend on the research question. Qualitative studies (e.g. focus groups, interviews, ethnography) are often helpful to help intervention developers understand the users’ needs and perspectives and the contexts in which the intervention will be implemented.
3. Logic model /‘theory of change’
This is a diagram that summarises the cause-effect sequence describing how the key elements of the intervention should lead to positive behaviour change and better health. Creating a logic model is best practice common to most approaches to intervention development so there is already guidance elsewhere on how to do this.
4. Intervention planning table
This table brings together all the available evidence about exactly what elements are needed in the intervention and why, drawing on theory, research, and the expertise of all members of the intervention development team, including public contributors and other stakeholders (see below for details). The table helps by capturing key pieces of information and early decisions in one place so that it is easy for the whole team to see and discuss the evolving picture.
5. Guiding principles for intervention design
The guiding principles focus on what is needed to make the intervention acceptable, feasible and engaging for the users it is designed for. A few key guiding principles can help keep the development focused on what will be especially appealing and useful to the intended users.
Carrying out User Needs Studies
Research into user needs is a vital part of the Person-Based Approach if there are evidence. There is no single method we use since different methods are needed to investigate different aspects of user needs. Methods that can be useful include:
- Surveys, focus groups or interviews to collect data on the needs, lifestyle and preferences of the target user population
- Ethnography to obtain an in-depth understanding of user contexts
- Participatory research to generate and prioritise ideas for useful interventions
- Analysis of population data to identify the population groups with specific needs and their characteristics (e.g. underserved groups or communities)
Guidance on carrying out these different types of studies is given elsewhere.