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action research, clinical preventive services, complex adaptive systems, quality improvement, systems change



  1. Murphy-Smith, Michele PhD, RN, RD
  2. Meyer, Barbara MS
  3. Hitt, Jeffrey MEd
  4. Taylor-Seehafer, Margaret A. PhD, RN, FNP
  5. Tyler, Diane O. PhD, RN, FNP


Put Prevention into Practice (PPIP), a national initiative promoting evidence-based clinical preventive services, was atheoretical in its approach to change. In 1994, the Texas Department of Health began demonstration projects to implement PPIP in grantee primary care sites across the state. They funded implementation and evaluation projects that resulted in eight years of experience with the process. Gathering both qualitative and quantitative data, the Texas Department of Health and the University of Texas researchers found action research essential to learning how to successfully support clinical sites in the implementation of PPIP. The researchers also found the need for on-site consultative assistance and a participatory problem-solving approach in order to produce desired systems change.


A complex adaptive systems' perspective gave theoretical justification for action research, the composition of the PPIP Implementation Model, and the importance of specific adaptation by clinics. Thus, the eight-year action research project found that a state health department desiring to implement and institutionalize quality health care should focus on: (1) context-specific consultation, (2) recognition of complexity and system-level constructs, and (3) the requirement for participatory change.