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Innovative Methods

Precision home visiting focuses on discovering efficient and effective ways to work with families through the use of innovative methods. There are many facets of innovation. Three of the most important innovative methods in precision home visiting are:

  1. broad-based partnerships in designing and testing new strategies,
  2. precision and coherence in defining and measuring interventions, and
  3. efficient research designs.

Broad-based partnerships are essential when designing and testing new strategies and disseminating research findings. Precision home visiting aims to bring together stakeholders—including researchers, policymakers, practitioners, community members, and families—to develop new ways to achieve specific outcomes. The varying perspectives stakeholders bring to this process contribute to generating new ideas, clarifying and defining research questions in meaningful ways, and identifying areas where current research methods can more effectively address new questions and work with participants.

Partnerships are also beneficial when disseminating findings and translating results into new and innovative practices. Research findings are often nuanced and complex, and it is easy to misunderstand the implications of these findings. Additionally, findings often do not make it into the hands of practitioners. By using broad-based partnerships, the field of home visiting can ensure explicit plans are created to meet the needs of various stakeholders and translate research into practice.

Precision and coherence are critical to precision home visiting. These concepts encompass specificity in defining and measuring home visiting interventions, the outcomes home visiting aims to improve, and the mediating pathways to those outcomes. Research demonstrates that interventions grounded in theory are more likely to achieve desired outcomes, yet typical logic models or theories of change may not include sufficient detail to illustrate the links between home visiting activities and home visitor actions, and short- and long-term outcomes. A goal of precision home visiting is to ensure interventions have coherent theories of change where home visiting components are aligned, and active ingredients are specified by clearly connecting home visiting interventions to expected family outcomes. Similarly, precision is necessary for intervention development and measurement. Clearly defined pathways between interventions and family outcomes, as well as the use of valid and reliable measures specific to the outcome of interest, are essential to moving precision home visiting research forward.

Rigorous testing of home visiting interventions is needed to make sure that the interventions are effective. To date, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been the gold standard in research; however, RCTs are often costly and require long periods of time from design to results. Thus, precision home visiting emphasizes the use of more efficient research designs, which are nimble and more appropriate for a research and development platform. Precision home visiting seeks to create or strengthen existing home visiting interventions by testing active ingredients and using innovative and efficient methods and designs. For example, new methodological approaches may be used to optimize interventions prior to scaling; rapid evaluation methods may be used to quickly generate innovations in home visiting; and other designs may be used to increase efficiency, by testing and comparing multiple active ingredients separately and in combination.