Introduction to SMART designs for the development of adaptive interventions: with application to weight loss research

Daniel Almirall, Inbal Nahum-Shani, Nancy E. Sherwood, Susan A. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


The management of many health disorders often entails a sequential, individualized approach whereby treatment is adapted and readapted over time in response to the specific needs and evolving status of the individual. Adaptive interventions provide one way to operationalize the strategies (e.g., continue, augment, switch, step-down) leading to individualized sequences of treatment. Often, a wide variety of critical questions must be answered when developing a high-quality adaptive intervention. Yet, there is often insufficient empirical evidence or theoretical basis to address these questions. The Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trial (SMART)—a type of research design—was developed explicitly for the purpose of building optimal adaptive interventions by providing answers to such questions. Despite increasing popularity, SMARTs remain relatively new to intervention scientists. This manuscript provides an introduction to adaptive interventions and SMARTs. We discuss SMART design considerations, including common primary and secondary aims. For illustration, we discuss the development of an adaptive intervention for optimizing weight loss among adult individuals who are overweight.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-274
Number of pages15
JournalTranslational behavioral medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • Adaptive treatment strategies
  • Dynamic treatment regimens or regimes
  • Experimental design
  • Individualized or personalized behavioral interventions
  • Timing and sequencing of intervention components

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