Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Implementation science within applied global health research

The aim of this area of investment is to fund innovative applied research to address the implementation gap and progress interventions towards real-world impact. We expect this research to ensure that evidence-based health interventions are implemented in an accessible and fair way for the most vulnerable populations.

Duration:
This is funded through the applied global health research board, which is an ongoing initiative with annual funding rounds.
Partners involved:
Medical Research Council (MRC), Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)

The scope and what we're doing

Background

Maximising impact from research has been a priority for MRC and remains a priority, as highlighted in the 2019 delivery plan.

Our applied global health research board provides a sustained funding mechanism to support implementation-focused health research in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), to progress interventions into real-world impact.

This opportunity complements MRC’s implementation science activities with the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD).

MRC’s definition of implementation science is aligned with that of GACD. Implementation science is commonly defined as the study of methods and strategies to promote the uptake of interventions that have proven effective in routine practice, with the aim of improving population health.

Scoping and priorities

MRC is seeking to fund the most pertinent research questions for implementation, scale-up and scale-out, with a broad health remit. Applications within this area of strategic interest, can be submitted through the applied global health research board.

Proposals must be based upon a conceptual framework, theory or model that informs the design and variables being tested.

Research proposals can be small scale, to:

  • conduct exploratory work such as identifying and understanding barriers to implementation
  • test the feasibility of an implementation strategy in a new context through pilot work.

Larger research proposals are also accepted, addressing a portfolio of implementation outcomes, processes and influences, such as:

  • political buy-in
  • economic factors
  • regulatory hurdles
  • community awareness
  • use of resources
  • equitable allocation of resources, design, uptake of the intervention, supply and demand.

The methodological approaches should be appropriate for the research question and can be wide-ranging, for example:

  • experimental and quasi-experimental study designs
  • mixed methods studies
  • comparative case studies
  • economic and mathematical modelling
  • combined approaches.

Operational research questions are not within remit.

Proposals are expected to clearly describe the implementation gap to be addressed, plus how the research is grounded in the local context and aligned with local health priorities.

Evidence should be provided to support this, for example, through in-kind contributions, support or participation from the local ministry of health. In addition, the research setting should be carefully justified in terms of:

  • future impact, for example, appetite for implementation
  • generalisability, for example, the contextual learning provided by the setting such as geography, demographics, the health system and the political environment.

Due to the very applied nature of implementation science, participatory approaches are encouraged as well as bidirectional communication with stakeholder groups.

Applicants should describe which stakeholders will be engaged, when, how and for what purpose. For example:

  • healthcare providers
  • implementers
  • programme managers
  • policymakers
  • civil society groups
  • beneficiaries
  • non-governmental organisations
  • the media.

Equity is particularly important in terms of the safety and reach of the intervention and implementation strategy. Equity should be at the core of any proposal, and potential wider impacts, such as ripple effects and unintended consequences, should also be considered.

Why we're doing it

Huge gains have been made in developing and testing health interventions. However, the ‘Managing clinical knowledge for health care improvement’ study has shown that there remains, on average, a lag of 17 years for research evidence to reach clinical practice.

The field of implementation science seeks to address this challenge by providing the evidence needed to effectively implement interventions in the real world. Implementation science considers wider system-level complexities that can otherwise prevent the expected impact from being achieved.

Who to contact

Programme Manager for Global Health Strategy

Global health trials, implementation science, health systems research, adolescent health, capacity building

Dr Caroline Harris

Email: caroline.harris@mrc.ukri.org

Last updated: 17 October 2022

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