Background Online communities of practise have the potential to address multiple barriers to the broader dissemination and maintenance of evidence-based HIV/STI interventions. Addressing these barriers is critical to narrowing the gap between what researchers have identified as best practises and what gets delivered in communities to curb the spread of disease. Yet there are few models grounded in implementation science that are useful for guiding the development of online communities that can support high-impact HIV/STI prevention.
Methods The APPLES dissemination model is used to identify goals and specific objectives of an online community of practise; this integrated theoretical model focuses on achieving adoption/adaptation; priority population identification and penetration; longevity; evaluability, and sustainability. A case example is used to discuss how the APPLES model can guide development of an international online community of practise.
Results Drawing on the APPLES model, key components of an online community to promote high-impact condom distribution were identified. These include: (1) Knowledge and skills-building to address specific APPLES goals and objectives, such as identification and outreach to the highest-risk, highest-impact population segments; (2) Knowledge-sharing and network engagement to identify implementation solutions over the life course of intervention delivery; and (3) Online expert coaching and technical assistance. Components are matched to multimedia activities that encourage both individual learning and community engagement. Challenges to marketing and maintenance are also considered in the development process, and built-in analytics are used to monitor and improve services provided.
Conclusion Carefully-designed online communities of practise can bring practitioners together to learn and share across geographic boundaries and without incurring the costs of face-to-face meetings. They are consonant with adult learning and professional development strategies that underscore the importance of participation not only in initial training events, but also the value of ongoing coaching, technical assistance, and peer network support.
- health technology
- implementation science
- online communities
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