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      Health system decision-makers at the helm of implementation research: development of a framework to evaluate the processes and effectiveness of embedded approaches

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          Abstract

          Background

          Embedded approaches to implementation research (IR), whereby health system decision-makers participate actively in the research process, are gaining traction as effective approaches to optimise the delivery of health programmes and policies. However, the evidence base on the processes and effectiveness of such collaborative research remains inchoate. Standardised approaches to evaluate these initiatives are needed to identify core elements of ‘embeddedness’, unveil the underlying pathways of change, and assess contribution to evidence uptake in decision-making and overall outcomes of effect. The framework presented in this paper responds to this need, designed to guide the systematic evaluation of embedded IR.

          Methods

          This evaluation framework for embedded IR approaches is based on the experience of a joint initiative by the Pan American Health Organization/Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, which has supported 19 IR grants in 10 Latin American and Caribbean countries from 2014 to 2017. The conceptualisation of this framework drew on various sources of information, including empirical evidence and conceptual insights from the literature, interviews with content experts, and a prospective evaluation of the 2016 cohort that included semi-structured key informant interviews, document analysis, and a research team survey to examine key aspects of embedded research.

          Results

          We developed a widely applicable conceptual framework to guide the evaluation of embedded IR in various contexts. Focused on uncovering how this collaborative research approach influences programme improvement, it outlines expected processes and intermediate outcomes. It also highlights constructs with which to assess ‘embeddedness’ as well as critical contextual factors. The framework is intended to provide a structure by which to systematically examine such embedded research initiatives, proposing three key stages of evidence-informed decision-making – co-production of evidence, engagement with research, and enactment of programme changes.

          Conclusion

          Rigorous evaluation of embedded IR is needed to build the evidence on its processes and effectiveness in influencing decision-making. The evaluation framework presented here addresses this gap with consideration of the complexity of such efforts. Its applicability to similar initiatives is bolstered by virtue of being founded on real-world experience; its potential to contribute to a nuanced understanding of embedded IR is significant.

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          Most cited references52

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          Evaluating the successful implementation of evidence into practice using the PARiHS framework: theoretical and practical challenges

          Background The PARiHS framework (Promoting Action on Research Implementation in Health Services) has proved to be a useful practical and conceptual heuristic for many researchers and practitioners in framing their research or knowledge translation endeavours. However, as a conceptual framework it still remains untested and therefore its contribution to the overall development and testing of theory in the field of implementation science is largely unquantified. Discussion This being the case, the paper provides an integrated summary of our conceptual and theoretical thinking so far and introduces a typology (derived from social policy analysis) used to distinguish between the terms conceptual framework, theory and model – important definitional and conceptual issues in trying to refine theoretical and methodological approaches to knowledge translation. Secondly, the paper describes the next phase of our work, in particular concentrating on the conceptual thinking and mapping that has led to the generation of the hypothesis that the PARiHS framework is best utilised as a two-stage process: as a preliminary (diagnostic and evaluative) measure of the elements and sub-elements of evidence (E) and context (C), and then using the aggregated data from these measures to determine the most appropriate facilitation method. The exact nature of the intervention is thus determined by the specific actors in the specific context at a specific time and place. In the process of refining this next phase of our work, we have had to consider the wider issues around the use of theories to inform and shape our research activity; the ongoing challenges of developing robust and sensitive measures; facilitation as an intervention for getting research into practice; and finally to note how the current debates around evidence into practice are adopting wider notions that fit innovations more generally. Summary The paper concludes by suggesting that the future direction of the work on the PARiHS framework is to develop a two-stage diagnostic and evaluative approach, where the intervention is shaped and moulded by the information gathered about the specific situation and from participating stakeholders. In order to expedite the generation of new evidence and testing of emerging theories, we suggest the formation of an international research implementation science collaborative that can systematically collect and analyse experiences of using and testing the PARiHS framework and similar conceptual and theoretical approaches. We also recommend further refinement of the definitions around conceptual framework, theory, and model, suggesting a wider discussion that embraces multiple epistemological and ontological perspectives.
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            The utilisation of health research in policy-making: concepts, examples and methods of assessment

            The importance of health research utilisation in policy-making, and of understanding the mechanisms involved, is increasingly recognised. Recent reports calling for more resources to improve health in developing countries, and global pressures for accountability, draw greater attention to research-informed policy-making. Key utilisation issues have been described for at least twenty years, but the growing focus on health research systems creates additional dimensions. The utilisation of health research in policy-making should contribute to policies that may eventually lead to desired outcomes, including health gains. In this article, exploration of these issues is combined with a review of various forms of policy-making. When this is linked to analysis of different types of health research, it assists in building a comprehensive account of the diverse meanings of research utilisation. Previous studies report methods and conceptual frameworks that have been applied, if with varying degrees of success, to record utilisation in policy-making. These studies reveal various examples of research impact within a general picture of underutilisation. Factors potentially enhancing utilisation can be identified by exploration of: priority setting; activities of the health research system at the interface between research and policy-making; and the role of the recipients, or 'receptors', of health research. An interfaces and receptors model provides a framework for analysis. Recommendations about possible methods for assessing health research utilisation follow identification of the purposes of such assessments. Our conclusion is that research utilisation can be better understood, and enhanced, by developing assessment methods informed by conceptual analysis and review of previous studies.
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              Making sense of complexity in context and implementation: the Context and Implementation of Complex Interventions (CICI) framework

              Background The effectiveness of complex interventions, as well as their success in reaching relevant populations, is critically influenced by their implementation in a given context. Current conceptual frameworks often fail to address context and implementation in an integrated way and, where addressed, they tend to focus on organisational context and are mostly concerned with specific health fields. Our objective was to develop a framework to facilitate the structured and comprehensive conceptualisation and assessment of context and implementation of complex interventions. Methods The Context and Implementation of Complex Interventions (CICI) framework was developed in an iterative manner and underwent extensive application. An initial framework based on a scoping review was tested in rapid assessments, revealing inconsistencies with respect to the underlying concepts. Thus, pragmatic utility concept analysis was undertaken to advance the concepts of context and implementation. Based on these findings, the framework was revised and applied in several systematic reviews, one health technology assessment (HTA) and one applicability assessment of very different complex interventions. Lessons learnt from these applications and from peer review were incorporated, resulting in the CICI framework. Results The CICI framework comprises three dimensions—context, implementation and setting—which interact with one another and with the intervention dimension. Context comprises seven domains (i.e., geographical, epidemiological, socio-cultural, socio-economic, ethical, legal, political); implementation consists of five domains (i.e., implementation theory, process, strategies, agents and outcomes); setting refers to the specific physical location, in which the intervention is put into practise. The intervention and the way it is implemented in a given setting and context can occur on a micro, meso and macro level. Tools to operationalise the framework comprise a checklist, data extraction tools for qualitative and quantitative reviews and a consultation guide for applicability assessments. Conclusions The CICI framework addresses and graphically presents context, implementation and setting in an integrated way. It aims at simplifying and structuring complexity in order to advance our understanding of whether and how interventions work. The framework can be applied in systematic reviews and HTA as well as primary research and facilitate communication among teams of researchers and with various stakeholders. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13012-017-0552-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                ilonavarallyay@gmail.com
                langloise@who.int
                trann@who.int
                eliasvan@paho.org
                reveizl@paho.org
                Journal
                Health Res Policy Syst
                Health Res Policy Syst
                Health Research Policy and Systems
                BioMed Central (London )
                1478-4505
                10 June 2020
                10 June 2020
                2020
                : 18
                Affiliations
                [1 ]GRID grid.21107.35, ISNI 0000 0001 2171 9311, Department of International Health of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, ; Baltimore, MD United States of America
                [2 ]GRID grid.3575.4, ISNI 0000000121633745, Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, , World Health Organization, ; 20 Avenue Appia, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
                [3 ]GRID grid.3575.4, ISNI 0000000121633745, Unintentional Injury Prevention Department for the Management of Non-communicable Diseases, Disability, Violence, and Injury Prevention (NVI), , World Health Organization, ; 20 Avenue Appia, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
                [4 ]GRID grid.4437.4, ISNI 0000 0001 0505 4321, Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health, , Pan American Health Organization, ; 525 Twenty-third Street, N.W, Washington, D.C, USA
                Article
                579
                10.1186/s12961-020-00579-9
                7288439
                739c63d8-073b-4caa-86c9-e7c59ce3a42d
                © The Author(s) 2020

                Open AccessThis article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

                Categories
                Research
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2020

                Health & Social care
                embedded research,implementation research,evidence-informed decision-making,research co-production,evidence-to-action,knowledge translation,health policy and systems research,evaluation framework,low- and middle-income countries

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