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Evolution of Diffusion and Dissemination Theory

Dearing, James W. PhD

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice:
doi: 10.1097/01.PHH.0000311886.98627.b7

The article provides a Review and considers how the diffusion of innovations Research paradigm has changed, and offers suggestions for the further development of this theory of social change. Main emphases of diffusion Research studies are compared over time, with special attention to applications of diffusion theory-based concepts as types of dissemination science. A considerable degree of paradigmatic evolution is observed. The classical diffusion model focused on adopter innovativeness, individuals as the locus of decision, communication channels, and adoption as the primary outcome measures in post hoc observational study designs. The diffusion systems in question were centralized, with fidelity of implementation often assumed. Current dissemination Research and practice is better characterized by tests of interventions that operationalize one or more diffusion theory-based concepts and concepts from other change approaches, involve complex organizations as the units of adoption, and focus on implementation issues. Foment characterizes dissemination and implementation Research, Reflecting both its interdisciplinary Roots and the imperative of spreading evidence-based innovations as a basis for a new paradigm of translational studies of dissemination science.

In Brief

The article provides discussion on how the diffusion of innovations Research paradigm has changed and offers suggestions for the further development of this theory of social change.

Author Information

James W. Dearing, PhD, is Senior Scientist and Codirector of the Center for Dissemination and Implementation Research. He studied under and collaborated with Everett M. Rogers for 20 years concerning the diffusion of innovations, technology transfer, and factors affecting government policy agendas.

Corresponding Author: James W. Dearing, PhD, Center for Dissemination and Implementation Research, Institute for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, PO Box 378066, Denver CO 80237 (

The author is indebted to the insightful and thoughtful suggestions of three anonymous Reviewers.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.