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The Efficacy of Tailored Interventions


  • This paper was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research, NR07102-02. The authors acknowledge Dr. Elizabeth Devine, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Dr. Jeffrey Henriques, University of Wisconsin-Madison, for their assistance during the synthesis of this literature, and Dr. Sandra Ward, Professor, School of Nursing and the faculty and students in the T32 program at UW-Madison.

Dr. Ryan, 7722 Geralayne Drive, Wauwatosa, WI 53212. E-mail:


Purpose: To evaluate the efficacy of Tailored Informational Interventions (TIs) compared to Standard Informational Interventions (SIs) and to determine whether efficacy varies by type of behavior, use of feedback, type of delivery channel, dose of the intervention, or time.

Methods: Cooper's method of literature integration (Cooper, 1989; Cooper & Hedges, 1994) was used. Eighty-five articles were located that contained the word tailoring in the title or abstract; 20 met criteria for inclusion.

Findings: Participants preferred TIs to SIs, perceived that the TIs were personal, and read and remembered more of the TI information. TIs were more effective than were SIs in 50% of studies. The effects of tailored and standard interventions were equivocal in the remaining 50% of studies. TIs had small increases in effect sizes compared to SIs. The efficacy of TIs differed by type of behavior. TIs had greater efficacy when ipsative feedback (comparing current to past behavior) was included as part of the intervention than when the intervention did not include such feedback. Repeated versus single administration of TIs did not affect health behaviors. The efficacy of TIs changed over time in some studies, but the pattern of change was not consistent.

Conclusions: Tailored interventions could be improved by (a) identifying the most salient characteristics to be tailored, (b) further delineating essential components of TIs, (c) determining the efficacy of different delivery channels, (d) determining factors that moderate effects of TIs, and (e) clarifying whether the efficacy of TIs changes over time.