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Susan Murphy

Headshot of Susan Murphy, a BioSocial Methods member.

A better way to evaluate health interventions

Matthew G. Solovey
October 31, 2018

“There’s a better way to evaluate the effectiveness of health interventions. It can help make health interventions not only effective, but scalable, affordable and less complex. When testing an intervention that is trying to modify health attitudes or behaviors — like a smoking cessation program — the Multiphase Optimization Strategy, or MOST, approaches the research process from a vantage point borrowed from the engineering world. Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute recognized the potential of this approach and helped fund part of the continued work by principal investigator Linda Collins. MOST consultations have been given to faculty of Clinical and Translational Science Award programs across the country.

‘My collaborators and I started this research because of what we see as serious problems in the behavioral and biobehavioral intervention fields,’ Collins, distinguished professor of human development and family studies, said. ‘Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on research in this area for more than 30 years. Yet, for the most part, the field has failed to develop a coherent body of scientific evidence about what works and what doesn’t work. Many interventions developed in academic settings at great expense never go to scale and steady incremental progress is not being made.’

After discussing these issues with Susan Murphy, a colleague at the University of Michigan, the idea for MOST started with a hallway conversation Murphy had with Vijay Nair, an eminent engineering statistician.

‘When she [Susan] explained how interventions are typically developed and evaluated, Vijay responded that an engineer would approach the problem quite differently,’ Collins explained. ‘Susan knew I would be interested in this perspective and invited me to Michigan for a couple of days for an intensive discussion.'”

Continue reading this story by selecting the title link, featuring BioSocial Methods members Susan Murphy and Vijay Nair.