Designing and Assessing Multilevel Interventions to Improve Minority Mental Health and Reduce Health Disparities

Abstract

Multilevel interventions can be uniquely effective at addressing minority health and health disparities, but they pose substantial methodological, data analytic, and assessment challenges that must be considered when designing and applying interventions and assessment.

To facilitate the adoption of multilevel interventions to reduce health disparities, we outline areas of need in filling existing operational challenges to the design and assessment of multilevel interventions. We discuss areas of development that address overarching constructs inherent in multilevel interventions, with a particular focus on their application to minority health and health disparities. Our approach will prove useful to researchers, as it allows them to integrate information related to health disparities research into the framework of broader constructs with which they are familiar.

Future Directions

Health disparities are pervasive throughout society—in part because of complex interactions between behavioral, social, economic, and environmental factors—and have significant societal consequences that affect the nation’s health. Multilevel interventions that target the broader community, societal, and environmental contexts and that affect individual behavior or risk produce greater reductions in health disparities than do approaches targeting a single level. Research to assess the effectiveness of multilevel interventions that can measure the complex interplay between the levels is urgently needed.

We have identified and discussed several challenges associated with designing and assessing multilevel interventions that require attention from the health disparities research community. These challenges necessitate transdisciplinary partnerships (e.g., biomedical, behavioral, and social scientists) for the specific purpose of achieving a common scientific goal. These transdisciplinary teams could specifically advance analytic techniques and measures for multilevel interventions. In so doing, the mechanisms and pathways that effectively reduce health disparities among different levels and maximize intervention success and sustainability can be more fully understood. Future research on multilevel interventions should focus on developing and refining guidelines for systematically designing and assessing the efficacy of multilevel interventions to improve minority health and reduce health disparities.

Population: Minority Communities

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Date: 2021