Understanding innovation in health program planning and development.
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INTRODUCTION: A need for innovative public health programs is evident as the field adapts to address changes in health priorities and target populations. The Innovative Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (iTP3) was created to support and enable innovation in teenage pregnancy prevention, developing programs to reach the most at risk youth. METHODS: A formative evaluation was conducted to understand what innovation means in the context of program development, and examine the process of innovation. Qualitative data was collected through baseline interviews with program development teams, referred to as Innovators, prior to the start of the project period and follow-up interviews conducted at the end of a 12-month funding period. Additional open-ended written responses were collected in the middle of the funding cycle. A thematic analysis with an open-coding scheme was used to identify emergent themes. RESULTS: Innovators considered programs innovative because of the target population of focus, program delivery mechanism, and/or program development approach. They specifically identified that a "culture" of innovation must be present if new programs are to be developed. Over time, Innovators began to shift their definition of innovation toward unique design processes and ecological approaches. DISCUSSION: Through creating a culture of innovation and utilizing systems thinking, this project provides important insights in how to develop innovations in public health.