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Context: A state budget shortfall defunded 10 local tobacco coalitions during a randomized trial but defunded coalitions continued to have access to 2 technical assistance Web sites.
Objective: To test the ability of Web-based technology to provide technical assistance to local tobacco control coalitions.
Design: Randomized 2-group trial with local tobacco control coalitions as the unit of randomization.
Setting: Local communities (ie, counties) within the State of Colorado. Participants: Leaders and members in 34 local tobacco control coalitions funded by the state health department in Colorado. Intervention: Two technical assistance Web sites: A Basic Web site with text-based information and a multimedia Enhanced Web site containing learning modules, resources, and communication features.
Main Outcome Measure(s): Use of the Web sites in minutes, pages, and session and evaluations of coalition functioning on coalition development, conflict resolution, leadership satisfaction, decision-making satisfaction, shared mission, personal involvement, and organization involvement in survey of leaders and members.
Results: Coalitions that were defunded but had access to the multimedia Enhanced Web site during the Fully Funded period and after defunding continued to use it (treatment group x funding status x period, F3,714 = 3.18, P = .0234). Coalitions with access to the Basic Web site had low Web site use throughout and use by defunded coalitions was nearly zero when funding ceased. Members in defunded Basic Web site coalitions reported that their coalitions functioned worse than defunded Enhanced Web site coalitions (coalition development: group x status, F1,360 = 4.81, P = .029; conflict resolution: group x status, F1,306 = 5.69, P = .018; leadership satisfaction: group x status, F1,342 = 5.69, P = .023).
Conclusions: The Enhanced Web site may have had a protective effect on defunded coalitions. Defunded coalitions may have increased their capacity by using the Enhanced Web site when fully funded or by continuing to use the available online resources after defunding. Web-based technical assistance with online training and resources may be a good investment when future funding is not ensured.
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