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The NIH Stage Model: Can it help us create better interventions?

Picture of Janine Simmons
Chief, Individual Behavioral Processes Branch,
Division of Behavioral and Social Research (DBSR)
Dr. Lisa Onken, a woman with blonde hair, smiling, wearing a dark shirt
Director Behavior Change and Intervention Program,
Division of Behavioral and Social Research (DBSR)

NIA has long supported behavioral interventions to help older adults build healthier habits, reduce stress, and better cope with the emotional and physical impacts of serious illness, caregiving, and grief. However, it can take many years to develop and implement potent, evidence-based behavioral interventions and deliver them to the people who need them most.

Fortunately, we have a tool designed to accelerate this process: the NIH Stage Model. We recently released a related Introductory NIH Stage Model Video designed to help scientists learn how to use this powerful approach. The full NIH Stage Model Video, incorporating guidance from leading behavioral intervention developers and a stage-by-stage consideration of the model, is also available for investigators who want more detail, at their own pace.

How can the NIH Stage Model help?

The NIH Stage Model can help move behavioral interventions from idea to implementation. It focuses on:

  • Addressing real world “fit” up front: Tackling implementation-related issues (scalability, usability, ease of delivery, training of real-world providers to deliver the intervention correctly, etc.) in Stage I (intervention generation, refinement, modification, and adaptation and pilot testing) of intervention development.
  • Focusing on what works: Emphasizing understanding of an intervention’s governing principles to separate what’s important from what’s unimportant and to accentuate the mechanisms that cause meaningful changes (and eliminate those that don’t make a difference). This helps streamline interventions and helps us to better teach and explain them to others.
  • Creating a common language for intervention development teams: Clear communication among researchers in the field is critical for intervention success.
  • Supporting training for community intervention providers: If an intervention cannot be delivered correctly, it might not actually be the same intervention and could be missing the critical ingredients. The NIH Stage Model supports developing and testing training procedures to deliver interventions at scale in the real world.

Apply for NIA research funding using the NIH Stage Model

As behavioral and social researchers and other scientists well know, there is an urgent need for evidence-based, implementable interventions to help the growing number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, their families, and other care partners. Unfortunately, few options are readily available right now. To expedite the development of effective and accessible behavioral interventions, NIA continues to support research using the NIH Stage Model, for example, through PAR-21-307 and PAR-21-308.

Researchers at NIA’s Edward R. Roybal Centers for Translational Research in the Behavioral and Social Sciences of Aging also use the NIH Stage Model to develop potent and implementable interventions for a broad range of healthy aging issues. We encourage you to apply for the next funding cycle, through RFA-AG-24-006, RFA-AG-24-007, and RFA-AG-24-008. Applications are due on June 23.

If you are interested in using the NIH Stage Model to accelerate and improve the impact of your interventions, please check out the NIH Stage Model Video to learn more. If you are an investigator who has used the NIH Stage Model in your own research, please leave a comment below to share your experience.

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