Implementation Science

Photo by David Bjorgen

Why It Matters  |  What We Are Doing  |  Who Is Involved


Why It Matters

One great irony of public health is that it takes about 17 years for scientific discoveries to be implemented into clinical practice and community settings. Important advances such as water filtration systems, patient safety practices, and clean indoor air policies could have saved many more lives if they had been adopted more quickly. The reasons for such delays are complex, but one of the major barriers is that we lack a system (including communication, marketing, distribution, and customer support) for scaling up discoveries and shortening the discovery-to-delivery gap. Public health practitioners have little time to review the literature for the latest evidence, evaluate their own data in systematic ways, or figure out how to implement an effective new practice or policy. We must find ways to accelerate the uptake of proven health innovations that already have been discovered.  The benefits of research findings can only be achieved when they are responsive to people’s needs and are fully integrated into practice, policy, and education.

What We Are Doing

Implementation science is one of the most important areas of growth in public health, and we have outstanding expertise across the Gillings School of Global Public Health.  Read More

We are focusing on this new field because it has become increasingly clear that evidence-based interventions are rarely adopted on their own merits.  Researchers may discover how to address a specific problem, but many implementation bottlenecks (social, behavioral, economic, and management) stand in the way of quickly and efficiently integrating the research findings into clinical practice and public health programs. At the Gillings School, we are putting science into service to get our research findings and effective interventions to the people who need them.

Who Is Involved

Our leaders in implementation science come from across the Gilling School, and include our world-class faculty, staff, post-docs and students. This overview only captures a fraction of the important research, teaching, and public service efforts in implementation science at the Gillings School. Below, our new implementation science initiatives are discussed.

The World Health Organization Collaborating Center- Sexual and Reproductive Health

The World health Organization Collaborating Center on sexual and reproductive health is translating scientific discoveries into real-world solutions.

Faculty, staff, and students are finding practical ways to deliver life-saving maternal and newborn health interventions in parts of the world where skilled medical care is in very short supply. The WHO Collaborating Center supports implementation science initiatives such as the G.R.E.A.T. project (Guideline development, Research priorities, Evidence synthesis, Applicability of evidence, Transfer of knowledge).  This project focuses on new approaches to identifying priority problems, developing guidelines, and implementing activities that are based on the best scientific evidence and tailored for local settings. Another effort we are involved in is the Alliance for Reproductive, Maternal and Newborn Health (RMNH) in Malawi, Africa which is an initiative to implement the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health.

The Consortium for Implementation Science

The consortium for implementation science is transforming the research-to-practice link to get evidence-based interventions to the people who need them most.  

Here in our own backyard, a major initiative between the Gillings School and RTI International will enable us to significantly improve the health of North Carolinians. By focusing on dissemination and implementation research, practice, policy, and education, we will be able to rapidly deliver new scientific findings to health care providers, patients, and communities. Our collaborators are leaders in applying implementation science to a wide range of public health concerns including obesity, cancer, school-based health, and HIV/AIDS. For example, we know that if doctors implemented aspirin therapy for preventing and managing cardiovascular disease (CVD), first-time CVD-related events could be reduced by 9%, recurrent events by 40%, and health care expenses by 20%. Cardiovascular disease is just one of the many health conditions for which the Consortium for Implementation Science will strive to achieve breakthroughs in health outcomes and reduce health care costs.