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Advancing Implementation Research and Delivery Science

Advancing Implementation Research and Delivery Science

Implementation research and delivery science (IRDS) is a process to both understand “what’ works and “how” to get what works to the populations that need it to improve health outcomes. The process has been called by many names (e.g. - implementation research, implementation science), is closely related to other approaches (e.g. - operations research), and is an integral component of health systems research. The term IRDS has recently been coined to capture both the research and delivery aspects of the process, highlighting the challenges of actually implementing and scaling up evidence based approaches to improve health care.
Global implementers, researchers, policy-makers and funders have recognized the increased importance of IRDS. Despite advances in some global health indicators, much work need to done to improve maternal, newborn and childhood health (MNCH) and to make progress toward achieving the newly established Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). USAID sees IRDS as a key paradigm for development – representing the interface of knowledge generation, knowledge management and knowledge use.  
While the need for IRDS is often recognized, there has been reluctance to invest in IRDS and work toward a common commitment to build the capacity and the systems needed for success. TRAction is defined by its investments in addressing MNCH through IRDS. Through its rich portfolio of IRDS sub-projects TRAction promotes the area by building capacity and by demonstrating methods and results that have the potential to improve health outcomes. Partnerships, meetings, workshops and dissemination events are spreading the news about the value and impact of IRDS. (To view information about how TRAction is advancing IRDS through specific activities, please view our study pages.)
In addition to supporting targeted IRDS efforts around the world and with a range of partners, TRAction is playing a leadership role in advancing IRDS more broadly through its work with the Implementation Research and Delivery Science (IRDS) Collaborative.

Key Results

The Collaborative of IRDS was formed in 2010 in response to the growing interest in IRDS and the need for an engaged global discussion on the topic. The IRDS Collaborative is comprised of the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (WHO), the World Bank and USAIDTRAction and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHU) serve as secretariat of the Collaborative.
Responding to interests and concerns about IRDS, the Collaborative brought together international and local stakeholders to explore ways to build a common understanding on IRDS, to broaden understanding of the potential of IRDS and to identify ways to expand investments in IRDS as a way to tackle challenging health issues. These consultative meetings (link to consultative meetings – brief description overall then each meeting) resulted in the development of the Statement on Advancing Implementation Research and Delivery Science (link to statement). The statement serves as a call to action for researchers, policymakers, implementers, funders, academics, editors and civil society at large.  It was promoted at the Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research held in Cape Town from September 30,2014-October 3, 2014.

Our Partners - The IRDS Collaborative

  • Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, World Health Organization
  • World Bank
  • Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Collaborative continues to meet regularly to advance the objectives of the IRDS Statement. Through its members, supported by TRAction and JHU it is carrying out several activities to expand the understanding and use of IRDS.

Events and Activities

Implementation Science Fellowship Program
  • The Collaborative, with funding from the TRAction Project, was able to place an Implementation Science Fellow at the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (WHO) during the 2015 - 2016 academic year.
IRDS Case Study Compendium
  • The Collaborative solicited a call for case studies that highlighted real examples of IRDS to demonstrate the benefits of employing this approach on health systems and/or outcomes, and provide insight on how projects are carried out in practice. Case studies are currently under review and the Collaborative looks forward to sharing more this coming fall.
IRDS Paper Series
  • The Collaborative is coordinating the development of series of papers to address the various dimensions of IRDS –including its history and value, incentives and disincentives for engaging in IRDS, the role of embedded IRDS in projects and programs and an assessment of the current IRDS literature. It is anticipated that this group of papers will appear in a major journal in the fall of 2016 and advance the IRDS discussion.
Fourth Global Symposium on Health System Research
  • The Collaborative looks forward to actively participating in the Fourth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research and engaging in discussions to build the IRDS field.
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