About this Research Topic
Implementation - the work of turning policy decisions into interventions that fulfill intended impacts in public health needs to be better understood. Implementation research attracts scholars based in a number of academic disciplines including politics, sociology, management and economics as well as health services research and public health.
Public health policies developed at governmental levels, their operationalisation into programmes for delivery and the individual responses of practitioners in the field all involve implementation. Implementation can be problematic to research for a variety of reasons. Context is central to understanding implementation. Complexities arise from the interplay of social, cultural, economic, institutional, legal as well as physical and human geography related variables. The interactions between different implementation actors and reactions of potential beneficiaries to interventions are equally hard to analyse. Real-world cases suggest implementation is frequently not a linear process and involves a confluence of multiple intersecting conditions. There are also often unintended consequences, which need to be examined. Contributors are encouraged to take a wide-angle view of implementation problems.
Implementation problems typically emerge around a complex of inter-related circumstances and factors. Categories for consideration in implementation research include evidence and knowledge, culture and context, process, actors and relationships, institutions and structure, resources, among others. For example, competing claims on public finances may impose significant external constraints on an intervention. Interventions may be deprived of adequate time and resources or appropriate combinations of resources. An intervention may be dependent on an unproven theory of the relationships between cause and effect. The knowledge claims embedded in proposed interventions may not align with local ways of knowing and doing. The need for and utility of reflexivity is often overlooked in implementation research. The need to involve several agencies in certain interventions may present too many intervening links for implementers to cope with. During implementation, the extent of dependency relationships, which require managing may become more complex than had been realised. Frequently in multi-actor implementation it emerges that there is insufficient understanding and agreement on intentions, goals or preferences. Implementation will also frequently expose poor quality communication and coordination between different actors. The compliance of agencies and practitioners may not be guaranteed. Understanding why some interventions work in real-world settings and others not so is clearly an area where research has struggled to develop answers.
Original research articles, hypothesis and theoretical articles, and policy and practice briefs up to 12,000 words, brief research reports (4,000 words max) and case reports (3000 words max) are sought to address the following key topics:
1. Discussion of theories of implementation and how they relate to the public health field. Explanations of how implementation can be better researched.
2. Roles and prescriptive positions taken by key international organizations when funding and promoting health programmes including the World Health Organization, World Bank and the European Union. Major NGOs may also be examined. Topics can include the challenge of policy transfer or diffusion and multi-level implementation.
3. Examining the impact of new public management, for example the balanced scorecard approach to public health interventions. Is NPM now being superseded by different management concepts and tools?
4. Evidence-based policy and it's utility as a concept and guide for implementation of public health initiatives. Real world cases are sought. Articles may complement the collection found in Frontiers Public Health Research Topic Methods and Applications in Implementation Science.
5. Understanding and accounting for context, culture and complexity. Scholarship that critically examines the nature of evidence in implementation and different ways of viewing knowledge and knowing in implementation research is particularly welcome.
6. Explanations of policy actor behaviour. Research that tackles analytical challenges in understanding the role of actor discretion and motivation.
7. Policy transfer/translation. What research reveals in regards to the implementation of public health interventions.
8. Using technology and eHealth for policy implementation.
9. Case studies that explain what happens to policies at the recipient level.
10. Theoretical and/or empirical analysis of the unintended consequences of implementation.
Keywords: implementation, public health policy, health programmes, public health promotion, public management, public health interventions, evidence-based policy, public health initiatives
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.