Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket…

May 5, 2014 (old blog)


To the naïve researcher (which includes myself!), it may seem that a pilot project is a perfect opportunity to try out new ideas and test new things. While somewhat true, a pilot also demands the attention and nurturing of a newborn child and it isn’t wise to “put all your eggs into one basket”.

Let me explain.

Similar to a colicky baby whom you wouldn’t try just onesoothing technique with, it would be rather unwise to approach a pilot study with rigidity and a tunnel-minded point of view. During my graduate course on behaviour change last year, I was particularly enamored with one of the theories I learned – the Health Belief Model (HBM; Rosenstock, 1974). Despite my enthusiasm, my patient supervisor reminded me that while the HBM may be an appropriate model to use, there are other models and theories in existence that may be equally appropriate. In other words, his advice was “not to put all your eggs in one basket.”

Let’s review for a moment… if we had decided to use the HBM in its’ entirety for the RIPPLE pilot project, there may have been some inadvertent consequences. For example, if we had run the project with 200 families in primary care and did not see any measurable differences in a given outcome (e.g.,parents’ perceived risks of childhood obesity, parents’ perceived benefits of improving children’s lifestyle behaviours), then we may have concluded that our RIPPLE intervention was ineffective. However, what if RIPPLE did affect parents’ attitudes or motivations about their children’s lifestyle behaviours, but we didn’t catch this because it went unmeasured and therefore unaccounted for?

My point is that in a pilot project such as ours, it is important to remain somewhat open-minded to other available options. For RIPPLE, the question is not whether we should include theoretical underpinnings or not (as research has demonstrated that theoretically driven interventions tend to be more effective than non-theoretical ones), but rather which models or theories should we include? Why should we include them? And how do we integrate them together? Next week I will discuss RIPPLE’s theoretical underpinnings in further detail; why the HBM, Theory of Planned Behaviour, and Motivational Interviewing?

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