intervention studies 2403

SEE ALSO: Barthes, Roland; Bourdieu, Pierre;
Cultural Capital; Genre; Postmodern Culture;
Postmodernism; Structuralism; Structure and


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intervention studies

Robert F. Boruch

Intervention studies address one or more of the
following five kinds of questions:

1 What is the nature and severity of problems
to which an intervention is directed or may
be directed, and what is the evidence of the
2 How and how well is the intervention
deployed, and what is the evidence for this?
3 Does the intervention work? Which inter
vention works better? And what is the evi
4 What are the cost effect relationships among
interventions, and what is the evidence?
5 What interventions work, or not, based on
what cumulative evidence from repeated

The phrase intervention studies is commonly
used in epidemiology and medical research to
refer to questions of the third kind (i.e., studies
of the effects of health related interventions).
The phrase has also become common in preven
tion research, work on learning disabilities and
behavioral disorders, and in other areas. Varia
tions on the phrase are frequently in the context
of studies of effects of interventions other than
health related ones. For instance, intervention
studies covers questions, posed in different
academic disciplines and government agencies,
that are also addressed under the rubrics of
evaluation, prevention research, and rando
mized controlled trials (social experiments)
(Rossi et al. 2004; see also Boruch 1997).
Questions of the third kind, on intervention
effects, receive most attention then in what fol
lows. The others are handled as precursors to
or successors of this basic class of question.
The interventions at issue vary with the pro
blems character and context. Across the social
sciences, these can include practices, such as
providing conventional welfare, police, or health
services. They may include programs designed to
provide better or more specialized services to
individuals, organizations, or geopolitical juris
dictions. And at the broadest level, interventions
may be construed as macro level policy in wel
fare, environment, education, and other arenas.
In addressing the first question, on nature
and severity of the problem, evidence may be
generated by probability sample surveys of those
people or organizations at risk, administrative
records of service organizations, and ethno
graphic (street level) research. Each method,
for instance, has been exploited to estimate the
size of homeless populations in various cities,
and the number and kinds of victims of crime.
In health oriented sociology and epidemiology,
such studies include work to estimate incidence
and prevalence of events such as injuries and
survival rates. Good understanding of needs is
usually a precursor to developing an interven
tion that could address the need, and is a pre
cursor to testing the interventions effects.
Theory drives the choice of what variables
ought to be measured. In considering teenage
pregnancy, for instance, one might focus on
girls, or boys, or both, depending on ones
theory about the problem or ones theoretical
construal of the phenomenon in different cul
tures and countries.
At least for studies based on sample surveys,
government statistical agencies and professional