Collins to challenge traditional approaches to developing behavioral interventions in NIH talk

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Linda M. Collins, director of the Methodology Center and professor of human development and family studies and of statistics at Penn State, will give a talk at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Washington, D.C., on March 26, about a new way to develop behavioral interventions -- such as those used in programs of smoking cessation, drug abuse prevention, treatment of obesity and promotion of physical activity.

The seminar is part of the NIH's lecture series, titled "Medicine: Mind the Gap," which explores issues at the intersection of research, evidence and clinical practice -- areas in which conventional wisdom may be contradicted by recent evidence. The goal of the series is to engage the NIH community in thought-provoking discussions to challenge what they think they know and to think critically about their role in helping to guide today’s research environment.

"A huge portion of morbidity and mortality is directly due to behavioral factors such as substance abuse, poor diet, inactivity and noncompliance with therapeutic protocols," said Collins. "My collaborators and I have been working on a new approach to development of behavioral interventions that we strongly believe has the potential to produce improved interventions that will reduce this morbidity and mortality. I am excited at the opportunity to share our ideas with scientists from across NIH and get their reaction.”   

In her talk, Collins will discuss how behavioral interventions are typically developed and evaluated using a treatment package approach, in which the intervention is assembled a priori and evaluated by means of a randomized controlled trial. She will challenge this strategy and review an alternative approach, called the Multiphase Optimization Strategy (MOST), an engineering-inspired framework for developing, optimizing and evaluating behavioral interventions. MOST includes a randomized controlled trial, preceded by other empirical steps aimed at intervention optimization.

"MOST offers several benefits, including the possibility of engineering behavioral interventions to meet explicit criteria of effectiveness and/or efficiency," said Collins. "Once the criteria have been met for a particular intervention, the bar can be raised to aim for ever-increasing public health impact."

Collins is a professor of human development and family studies and professor of statistics at Penn State. She also is the director of the Methodology Center at Penn State, an interdisciplinary research center devoted to the advancement and dissemination of quantitative methods for applications in the behavioral sciences. Since 1996, she has been the director of a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Center of Excellence, the Center for Prevention and Treatment Methodology. She is currently a co-director of the NIDA-funded Prevention and Methodology Training Program.

Collins’s research interests include analysis of longitudinal data, particularly latent class approaches, and engineering-inspired methods for improving behavioral interventions. Recently, she has been active in working on MOST. Her peer-reviewed publications have appeared in a wide range of journals, and she has co-edited several books and special issues of journals.

Collins is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. She was a core member of the Tobacco Etiology Research Network, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Her awards include the Cattell Award for Distinguished Multivariate Behavioral Research, the President’s Award from the Society for Prevention Research, Penn State’s Faculty Scholar Medal and Penn State’s Pattishall Outstanding Research Achievement Award. She is a past president of the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology and the Society for Prevention Research.

Last Updated February 28, 2013