Sustaining community-based public health programs presents numerous challenges to practitioners. However, a recent study of youth smoking cessation programs has uncovered commonalities that researchers hope will inform the development of more sustainable initiatives in the future.
The research team, led by Sue Curry, dean and Distinguished Professor at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, surveyed 591 community-based youth smoking cessation programs nationwide to examine characteristics and correlates of sustainability over a three-year period. Follow-up surveys were completed with 305 programs.
Of the 305 programs completing the follow-up survey, 188 (62%) were still in operation, and the data from those respondents indicates several baseline correlates of sustainable operation, including serving a larger number of youth, well-trained staff, and receiving state funding as a sole source of support.
Commonly cited reasons for discontinuation include high cost of operation, funding cuts, low enrollment, and lack of trained staff. The full study is available online at Health Promotion Practice.
According to Curry, it is encouraging that many smoking cessation programs stay active over the long-term. “Our results highlight the importance both of continued state support for youth cessation and continued training and technical assistance for program staff,” she says.
Additionally, Curry thinks the findings of the study could help community leaders better understand how to create and implement other successful and sustainable programs. “Because we built on a general framework for understanding program sustainability, it is reasonable to extrapolate our findings to other community-based public health initiatives.”
Robin J. Mermelstein and Amy K. Sporer of the University of Illinois at Chicago also contributed to the study.
This study was funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Support was also provided by the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute.