Call for papers: Innovations in Implementation Science in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Deadline: 15 November 2019

This call for papers is organised by the journal Health Policy and Planning, and the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research. The theme for the call is: “Innovations in Implementation Research in Low- and Middle-Income Countries”.

Major global health gains can be achieved by strengthening the delivery of public health policies and programmes in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The population impact of evidence-based technologies and interventions such as drugs, vaccines and health know-how will be maximised where programmes optimally identify and reach target populations and support them to take up and sustain effective use of these tools. Examples include the significant gaps in the coverage of antiretroviral therapy for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, the intermittent preventive therapy and availability of bednets for malaria control, and handwashing with soap to limit the transmission of diseases. While structural change and increased funding is essential, much can be gained through ongoing improvements in programme delivery. Implementation gaps are also widely implicated in the failure of broader health policies and reforms in LMICs, such as for decentralization, health care regulation and primary health care. This makes it important also to analyse the implementation of policies at all levels, including studying the negotiations and interactions of actors in social and political contexts, understanding gaps in the effectiveness of public policies and helping to resolve them.

Scientific enquiry on implementation is critical to accelerate impact and foster innovation in this area. This area of enquiry, interchangeably referred to as implementation research and implementation science has captured widespread attention, and next steps involve taking implementation research to scale to support the delivery of public health programmes and broader reforms such as Universal Health Coverage.

Widely acknowledged as an eclectic area of enquiry not reliant on any one particular method or discipline, implementation research needs to adapt and innovate to meet the diversity of demand upon it. Innovations in this area apply at each stage – from developing more fit-for-purpose study designs, to deploying multiple methods and disciplines to better effect, to innovations in fieldwork and analysis. The governance of implementation research, including the evolution of appropriate ethical standards, also represents a potential area of innovation. An additional layer of innovation has been in considering who participates in implementation research. The lack of alignment of existing research with the priorities and needs of their ultimate consumers (i.e., health system decision makers and practitioners in LMICs) – is increasingly being recognised as widespread. To counter this misalignment and consequent research waste, innovations such as “embedding” implementation research into LMIC health systems, and participatory approaches involving implementers and practitioners, are gradually gaining momentum.

This supplement will discuss the concept and usefulness of implementation research in the context of LMICs, and invite contributions to illustrate some of the innovations in this area of enquiry. It will outline trajectories of the development of the field and help to chart the way forward for the further application of implementation research to maximise its impact on policies and programmes in the real world.

We invite articles speaking to innovations in the methods, approaches and governance of research on the implementation of public health policies and programmes in LMICs, including but not limited to the following sub-themes:

  • Quantitative assessment of public health policy and programme implementation
  • Multidisciplinary and qualitative approaches and mixed methods assessments of public health policy and programme implementation.
  • Health policy implementation analysis, including policy process and power.
  • Process evaluation of public health programme implementation.
  • Systematic reviews of public health policy and programme implementation
  • Embedding and participatory approaches in implementation research.
  • Governance and ethics of implementation research in LMICs.

All papers should clearly identify the specific innovation that it is presenting or illustrating and situate it in the literature. We invite the following types of submissions:

All papers will be subject to peer review. We hope to publish between eight-10 papers in this supplement. The editors will screen and shortlist submitted manuscripts for consideration for the special supplement based on the quality of the submission, correspondence to the theme of the special supplement, and innovativeness in approach or topic of focus. The editors may also consider factors such as breadth of coverage of topics, approaches, and geography in shortlisting papers for the supplement. It is our aim that at minimum 50% of accepted papers come from a LMIC author, listed as first author on the paper.

Manuscripts that do not find a place in the shortlist for the special supplement, for any of the reasons cited above, but are otherwise of high quality and within the scope of the journal will be treated as routine journal submissions and considered for publication in a regular issue of the journal.

Full manuscripts should be submitted to Health Policy and Planning by 15 October 2019 through the submission link on the journal website. During the submission process please note your paper is to be considered as part of this supplement.

Papers that receive positive reviews but are not deemed suitable for this supplement may be considered for individual publication in Health Policy and Planning. We envisage the launch of this supplement to coincide with the Sixth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, taking place in Dubai from 8-12 November 2020.

Lead editors

  • James Hargreaves
  • Kabir Sheikh
  • Mishal Khan
  • Sandra Mounier-Jack
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