What is implementation science, and what can it do for the field of global health?
Earlier this month, FHI 360 brought together over 150 public health specialists, researchers, scholars and donors in Washington, DC, for a day-long symposium to wrestle with these questions.
One clear conclusion emerged: There is no single definition for implementation science. Symposium speakers used definitions including: the scientific study of methods to promote the integration of research findings and evidence-based interventions into health care practice and policy (U.S. National Institutes of Health); the application of systematic learning, research and evaluation to improve health practice, policy and programs (U.S. Agency for International Development); and the study of methods to improve the uptake, implementation and translation of research findings into routine practices (U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).
Despite the lack of consensus on definitions, symposium participants agreed that implementation science can make essential contributions to global health. Setting implementation science apart from other research disciplines is its focus on how to implement proven interventions in real-world contexts, delivered at scale. Noting that implementation occurs within complex systems, Greg Aarons of the University of California, San Diego, introduced participants to frameworks that help us consider the interaction of factors that affect the success of the implementation process. (View the symposium’s presentations and webcast.)