Letting go: Conceptualizing intervention de-implementation in public health and social service settings

Virginia R. McKay, Alexandra B. Morshed, Ross C. Brownson, Enola K. Proctor, Beth Prusaczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The discontinuation of interventions that should be stopped, or de-implementation, has emerged as a novel line of inquiry within dissemination and implementation science. As this area grows in human services research, like public health and social work, theory is needed to help guide scientific endeavors. Given the infancy of de-implementation, this conceptual narrative provides a definition and criteria for determining if an intervention should be de-implemented. We identify three criteria for identifying interventions appropriate for de-implementation: (a) interventions that are not effective or harmful, (b) interventions that are not the most effective or efficient to provide, and (c) interventions that are no longer necessary. Detailed, well-documented examples illustrate each of the criteria. We describe de-implementation frameworks, but also demonstrate how other existing implementation frameworks might be applied to de-implementation research as a supplement. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of de-implementation in the context of other stages of implementation, like sustainability and adoption; next steps for de-implementation research, especially identifying interventions appropriate for de-implementation in a systematic manner; and highlight special ethical considerations to advance the field of de-implementation research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-202
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • De-implementation
  • Implementation science
  • Public health
  • Social service
  • Theory


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