Longitudinal Analyses of Community-Level Interventions: Examining Impact on Residents, Coalition Members, and Youth over Time
More rigorous research is needed to test community-level interventions and build an evidence-base for effective community practice (Clauser, Taplin, et al., 2012). Methodological limitations are often referenced in the literature as a barrier to trustworthy community-level intervention research (Gilligan, et al., 2011). These include the lack of comparison groups to help rule out alternative hypotheses, outcome variables that measure the perceptions of change rather than actual change using objective criteria, inadequate sample sizes for detecting effects, and low participant response rates to surveys.
This panel will present analyses conducted at three different institutions, each exemplifying methods that overcome common methodological limitations in community-level intervention research. In particular, this panel focuses on the potential of longitudinal research to evaluate community-level change over time. Relative to cross-sectional surveys and case studies, multi-site longitudinal studies are particularly well suited to examine structural determinants, intervention effectiveness, and sustainability.
The first presentation communicates results from surveys of individuals living in low to moderate-income neighborhoods in 10 cities where the Making Connections initiative invested in neighborhood and organizational capacity building from 1999 to 2007. Aggregated neighborhood social cohesion (NSC) scores for 430 United States Census Blocks were created from a stratified random sample of individuals (n = 7,495). Several Census variables were associated with NSC at baseline and changes in NSC over time: homeownership, moves, and educational attainment particularly in neighborhoods with concentration of Latino/Latina and American Indian and Alaska Natives.
The second presentation examines, through repeated interviews with coalition members, how levels of coalition directedness changed over time (5 years into study-supported implementation of Communities That Care and 2 and 4 years after study-provided assistance and funding ended). This study also examines the extent to which coalition characteristics predict variation in coalitions’ ability to maintain directedness. Results suggest the need to support coalitions by building key leader support, enhancing training and technical assistance, and improving new member orientation and integration to the coalition at distinct intervention phases.
The third paper focuses on the results of a community randomized controlled trial of the Communities That Care (CTC) prevention system that provided youth (n = 4,407) residing in 12 communities with opportunities, skills, and recognition for prosocial involvement. Previous findings suggest that CTC had a community-wide impact on levels of adolescent protective factors, but unlike the sustained effects on youth problem behaviors, this paper finds that the effect on protective factors in young people was not sustained beyond the intervention phase.
These papers each use longitudinal research methods to understand the impact of community level interventions. Together they overcome frequent methodological limitations to improve our evidence-base for community practice.