Intervention Scalability Assessment Tool

3 January 2020
Femke van Nassau

Promising health interventions tested in pilot studies will only achieve population-wide impact if they are implemented at scale across communities and health systems. Scaling up effective health interventions is vital as not doing so denies the community the most effective services and programmes. However, there remains a paucity of practical tools to assess the suitability of health interventions for scale-up. The Intervention Scalability Assessment Tool (ISAT) was developed to support policy-makers and practitioners to make systematic assessments of the suitability of health interventions for scale-up.

The ISAT was developed over three stages; the first stage involved a literature review to identify similar tools and frameworks that could be used to guide scalability assessments, and expert input to develop draft ISAT content. In the second stage, the draft ISAT tool was tested with end users. The third stage involved revising and re-testing the ISAT with end users to further refine the language and structure of the final ISAT.

A variety of information and sources of evidence should be used to complete the ISAT. The ISAT consists of three parts. Part A: ‘setting the scene’ requires consideration of the context in which the intervention is being considered for scale-up and consists of five domains, as follows: (1) the problem; (2) the intervention; (3) strategic/political context; (4) evidence of effectiveness; and (5) intervention costs and benefits. Part B asks users to assess the potential implementation and scale-up requirements within five domains, namely (1) fidelity and adaptation; (2) reach and acceptability; (3) delivery setting and workforce; (4) implementation infrastructure; and (5) sustainability. Part C generates a graphical representation of the strengths and weaknesses of the readiness of the proposed intervention for scale-up. Users are also prompted for a recommendation as to whether the intervention (1) is recommended for scale-up, (2) is promising but needs further information before scaling up, or (3) does not yet merit scale-up.

The ISAT fills an important gap in applied scalability assessment and can become a critical decision support tool for policy-makers and practitioners when selecting health interventions for scale-up. Although the ISAT is designed to be a health policy and practitioner tool, it can also be used by researchers in the design of research to fill important evidence gaps.

Reference: Milat A, Lee K, Conte K, Grunseit A, Wolfenden L, van Nassau F, Orr N, Sreeram P, Bauman A. Intervention Scalability Assessment Tool: A decision support tool for health policy makers and implementers. Health Res Policy Syst. 2020 Jan 3;18(1):1. doi: 10.1186/s12961-019-0494-2.