The Centre for Evidence-based Health Care (CEBHC) was recently appointed as the African Regional Centre of Excellence in Implementation Research by the World Health Organisation as part of their Strengthening Capacity for Implementation Research (SCAPIR) initiative.
“The Centre of Excellence status recognises the CEBHC and faculty as having an established reputation in the science of translating research evidence into policy and practice, based on demonstrated records of publications, teaching and mentoring related to this field,” says Prof Charles Wiysonge, deputy director of the CEBHC at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University.
It is one of only six Centres of Excellence in Implementation Research around the world and will be tasked to help build capacity in implementation research at other African institutions. This will be achieved through the development of training courses; implementation of a small grants scheme; and development and sharing of case studies on implementation research that could be used for teaching purposes by other institutions.
Implementation research refers to the scientific investigation into whether research achieves the intended effect. “In health research it can be policies, programmes or interventions,” explains Wiysonge.
“Implementation research aims to understand what, why and how interventions work in ‘real world’ settings and to test approaches to improve them. Implementation research therefore seeks to understand and work within real world conditions rather than trying to control for these conditions or to remove their influence as causal effects.”
According to Wiysonge the field of implementation research is growing, but it is not well understood, despite the need for better research to inform decisions about health policies, programmes and practices.
“Through the training centres, the development of and demand for locally generated research that is problem-focused and action-oriented will be supported. The centres will develop the capacity of implementers to identify implementation barriers and opportunities that can be addressed through research,” says Wiysonge.
“It will also facilitate partnerships between implementers and researchers who share the goal of engendering iterative improvements in programme implementation.“In this way the centres will foster demand for implementation research that is aligned with programme needs and is of particular relevance to low- and middle-income countries.”