Reporting of Context and Implementation in Studies of Global Health Interventions

A Pilot Study

Published in: Implementation Science, v. 9, no. 57, May 2014, p. 1-9

Posted on RAND.org on May 01, 2014

by Jill Luoto, Paul G. Shekelle, Margaret Maglione, Breanne Johnsen, Tanja Perry

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BACKGROUND: There is an increasing push for 'evidence-based' decision making in global health policy circles. However, at present there are no agreed upon standards or guidelines for how to evaluate evidence in global health. Recent evaluations of existing evidence frameworks that could serve such a purpose have identified details of program context and project implementation as missing components needed to inform policy. We performed a pilot study to assess the current state of reporting of context and implementation in studies of global health interventions. METHODS: We identified three existing criteria sets for implementation reporting and selected from them 10 criteria potentially relevant to the needs of policy makers in global health contexts. We applied these 10 criteria to 15 articles included in the evidence base for three global health interventions chosen to represent a diverse set of advocated global health programs or interventions: household water chlorination, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and lay community health workers to reduce child mortality. We used a good-fair-poor/none scale for the ratings. RESULTS: The proportion of criteria for which reporting was poor/none ranged from 11% to 54% with an average of 30%. Eight articles had 'good' or 'fair' documentation for greater than 75% of criteria, while five articles had 'poor or none' documentation for 50% of criteria or more. Examples of good reporting were identified. CONCLUSIONS: Reporting of context and implementation information in studies of global health interventions is mostly fair or poor, and highly variable. The idiosyncratic variability in reporting indicates that global health investigators need more guidance about what aspects of context and implementation to measure and how to report them. This lack of context and implementation information is a major gap in the evidence needed by global health policy makers to reach decisions.

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