Intervention mapping meets youth-led participatory action research

12 December 2019
Femke van Nassau

Youth-led Participatory Action Research (YPAR) involves children throughout the process of developing and implementing interventions. Combining YPAR with a structural approach for designing and planning interventions, such as Intervention Mapping (IM), may further improve implementation and effectiveness of interventions. This paper describes how YPAR and IM were combined in the Kids in Action study.

The Kids in Action study aims to improve health behaviors of 9–12-year old children living in a low socioeconomic neighborhood in Amsterdam, by co-designing interventions with these children. At each of four schools 6–8 children (N = 18–24 total per year) and two academic researchers formed participatory groups that met weekly or every fortnight during two school years. An IM expert panel advised the participatory groups on the application of IM.

Following the IM protocol, we conducted a participatory needs assessment with children, parents and professionals, in IM-step 1. In IM-step 2, the IM expert panel constructed matrices of program objectives, and the children provided feedback. In collaboration with children programs were designed and produced using an iterative process during IM-steps 3–4. In IM-step 5, the participatory groups and professional community partners designed the implementation plan. Finally, in IM-step 6, the protocol of the process and effect evaluation – executed by academic researchers with input from children – was developed.

By combining YPAR and IM, several interventions have been developed and implemented, varying from a school water policy to extracurricular sports activities. Sharing responsibility with children was challenging when combining IM with YPAR. In YPAR children are given as much autonomy as possible, while traditional IM development work is primarily done by academic researchers. Strengths in combining IM and YPAR include the involvement of the end-users – children – throughout the process while at the same time developing interventions based on existing evidence. Time-management, a multidisciplinary team, and flexibility are important conditions when combining IM with YPAR. A strong community project group, with professionals who were willing to help children develop and execute their ideas, was an important success factor. This study can serve as an example to other YPAR studies developing interventions using the IM protocol.

Reference: Anselma M, Altenburg TM, Emke H, van Nassau F, Jurg M, Ruiter RAC, Jurkowski JM, Chinapaw MJM. Co-designing obesity prevention interventions together with children: intervention mapping meets youth-led participatory action research. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2019 Dec 12;16(1):130. doi: 10.1186/s12966-019-0891-5.