Spotlight on Research at COPH – Paul Estabrooks, Ph.D. is a professor and the Harold M. Maurer Distinguished Chair of Public Health for the Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health. Over the previous 20 years, Dr. Estabrooks has engaged in integrated research-practice partnerships to develop and test effective, practical, and sustainable physical activity, nutrition, and weight control interventions. Dr. Estabrooks’ work has focused on the integration of research and practice at the systems level, as this results in interventions that benefit from traditional research evidence as well as practice-based evidence. The team used this model to demonstrate that there is a need to describe underlying functioning principles of evidence-based interventions to allow for adaptations that will not result in weakened effects, interventions developed using pragmatic partnership approaches (i.e., developed with organizational decision makers and obtaining actionable information for decisions on implementation and sustainability) have a higher probability of being sustained beyond the life of a research program, and interventions developed using this approach tend to be less resource intensive than traditional evidence-based interventions.
Dr. Estabrooks also focuses on developing and refining pragmatic methods to balance internal and external validity in health behavior research. As part of the RE-AIM (www.re-aim.org) workgroup since 1999, he developed a set of recommendations for researchers to improve the likelihood that evidence-based interventions can be taken to scale and have a public health impact. Specifically, his work has highlighted the importance of understanding behavioral intervention reach, effectiveness, and maintenance at the participant level while also addressing intervention adoption decisions, implementation, and sustainability at the organizational level. Dr. Estabrooks has applied these methods to the development of practical approaches to promoting healthy lifestyles in children and adults. There is a constant tension between building complex, multi-component interventions that are the most likely to be useful in building practical interventions that can be readily adopted and implemented in the typical community and clinical settings. In his work, he has focused on balancing complexity with the use of practical theory-based intervention strategies with a higher likelihood of sustainability. To date, with his team, Dr. Estabrooks has developed interventions that have improved physical activity, healthful eating, and weight control for over 200,000 participants across programs.
Since joining COPH in January 2016, Dr. Estabrooks has been connecting with practice partners and getting involved with local and state efforts aimed at improving physical activity, healthful eating and weight control. Between his work, the students he is teaching and the faculty he is mentoring, COPH is confident that Dr. Estabrooks will play a significant role in achieving our goal of making Nebraska the healthiest state in the nation!