Step 4b: Adapt an evidence-based program

After you have chosen an evidence-based program (EBP), you may need to adapt it to better serve the needs of the people the program is serving or the setting in which it is delivered.

This process—making thoughtful, strategic changes, while keeping the main elements of the program the same—is often called “program adaptation.”  It can help you increase the impact and relevance of the program by making it fit your context more effectively.

To retain all of the benefits of the tested program, your version should match the original as closely as possible. The original program was successful and based on a certain set of core components. It is important to keep the core components the same, while making changes to the pieces that will make the program fit your community more effectively. After all, every community is different, and each organization running the program is unique, so nearly every program will need some customization.

Use the resources below to help find a balance between adaptation and the original program.


Step 4b resources

An article from the Journal of Family Relations which presents principles for improving the quality and impact of existing evidence-based prevention programs targeting, children, youth, and their families, using examples from well established, family-focused preventive programs.

A fact Sheet from Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T. that outlines how best to choose and adapt research-tested intervention programs (RTIPS), including adaptation guidelines, a program adaptation checklist, and pilot testing recommendations.

A 2007 Research to Practice Brief from What Works Wisconsin that explores the types of changes that are sometimes made to programs and the effects those changes can have.


It also offers strategies for maintaining program fidelity and effectiveness, based on research about evidence-based program implementation and adaptation.

A guide for health promotion practiced developed by the National Cancer Institute. 


This guide provides practitioner resources that describe behavior change theories at the individual, interpersonal, and community levels. Examples include the Health Belief Model and Social Cognitive Theory. It also includes an introduction that describes using theory for health promotion and a summary section on putting theory and practice together.