Although there are many positive aspects of the ecological model, there are also some challenges associated with this particular model. A major challenge is that, in order to develop the most effective interventions, multiple levels of the Social Ecological Model must be addressed. Interventions, especially those which involve multiple levels, can be costly. Time and money are needed for each intervention level utilized. In addition, coordination issues may result from attempting to intervene at multiple levels of the ecological model simultaneously. When multiple interventions are being implemented at the same time, an intervention at one level also has the ability to conflict with an intervention at another level. Although it is most effective to utilize multiple levels of the ecological model, each additional level of the model utilized has the potential to lead to further complications. The decision to utilize multiple levels of the Social Ecological Model, and the potential negative results of doing so, must be carefully considered.
As with all types of interventions, one size typically does not fit all. Multiple interventions may be needed for different populations. Age, cultural differences, and gender are examples of population differences, which need to be considered when developing interventions. The presence of a diverse population means that multiple interventions may be needed in order to effectively implement health changes within an entire community. The need for multiple interventions can be costly, both monetarily and timely. Without the use of multiple, population-specific interventions, the desired health outcome may be much more difficult to achieve. When interventions are developed, health professionals must consider the populations they are trying to reach, and they must ensure that the interventions will not be resisted. If health professionals believe the best intervention will be resisted by one population, but accepted by another, two different interventions may be required within a single community. There are some challenges with the ecological model, such as the requirement of many resources; however, as long as the interventions are well planned, the Social Ecological Model is usually quite effective.
Although the Social Ecological Model is well-respected and can be used alone, it is most effective when combined with other systems, such as the RE-AIM framework. RE-AIM is an acronym, which stands for reach, efficacy, adoption, implementation, and maintenance. Reach represents the number of people willing to participate in an intervention. Efficacy encompases the possible impact of an intervention. Adoption is the number of people willing to initiate an intervention program. Implementation refers to how well the implementation technique is expected to be followed. Aspects of the technique, which are considered, include time, money, and the delivery of the intervention. Finally, maintenance is how well the intervention is made part of the routine. All of these terms should be considered when developing health interventions from research. The use of this framework makes strengths and weaknesses of a proposed intervention more apparent, and it improves the chances that developed interventions will actually work. When combined with the Social Ecological Model, the RE-AIM framework can be quite helpful. This framework has the potential to save resources, such as time and money, and it can increase the chances that an effective intervention is selected. The RE-AIM framework should be used, in addition to the Social Ecological Model, in order to produce the best health intervention results.