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Formative Research Towards the Development of Effective Behavioral and Social Interventions to Improve Oral and Craniofacial Health

Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Branch
Division of Extramural Research

This initiative would take the form of a Request for Applications for behavioral and social clinical trials research. The broad objective of this announcement would be to engage investigators with behavioral and social science intervention expertise to address oral health needs. The specific purpose of this announcement would be to support formative research on behavioral or social interventions to improve oral health, in order to equip investigators to apply for an NIDCR clinical trials implementation grant through the standard U01 mechanism.

Scope/magnitude of the problem
Health behaviors play an important role in oral and craniofacial diseases and conditions, and behavioral and social interventions can improve these health behaviors. A major challenge in behavioral and social research has been the lack of a model about how to develop interventions that build on existing research and still address the needs of our diverse populations. The current model involves starting over with each new target population, without drawing on the lessons learned from previous studies. The current model also pays little attention to the principles of behavior change or organizational/system change, so that study results do not contribute meaningfully to a body of knowledge about improving oral health. In other words, often times neither the intervention itself, nor the knowledge gained from testing it, is generalizable. This model is inefficient, and does not grow a strong science of behavioral or social intervention. 

Gaps in our knowledge
There are tremendous gaps in our knowledge about what sorts of behavioral or social interventions work best for improving oral health, under which circumstances, and delivered in which way. Slow progress in filling these knowledge gaps is due in part to weaknesses in the current model of behavioral and social intervention research, with its lack of efficiency and poor ability to produce results that contribute to a body of knowledge about change at the individual, family, community, and/or provider level(s). Slow progress in filling these knowledge gaps is also due to the siloed nature of behavioral and social intervention research, so that potential breakthroughs in behavior change that might be relevant across disease areas are difficult to identify, and investigators with potentially-relevant expertise tend not to work in multiple disease areas. The proposed initiative attempts to address both challenges by ensuring rigorous formative research before launching a behavioral or social intervention trial, and by providing an opportunity for investigators who may be new to oral health to collect intervention feasibility data. 

The proposed initiative would support the development or adaptation of a behavioral or social intervention to improve oral health, along with the collection of pilot data in three areas: 1) the feasibility and the acceptability of the intervention; 2) the potential sustainability of the intervention and any changes to the intervention and/or delivery system that might be needed for sustainability; and 3) the plausibility of the proposed mechanisms of action of the intervention.     

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This page last updated: February 26, 2014