Background: Implementation science in resource-poor countries and communities is arguably more important than implementation science in resource-rich settings, because resource poverty requires novel solutions to ensure that research results are translated into routine practice and benefit the largest possible number of people.
Methods: We reviewed the role of resources in the extant implementation science frameworks and literature. We analyzed opportunities for implementation science in resource-poor countries and communities, as well as threats to the realization of these opportunities.
Results: Many of the frameworks that provide theoretical guidance for implementation science view resources as contextual factors that are important to (i) predict the feasibility of implementation of research results in routine practice, (ii) explain implementation success and failure, (iii) adapt novel evidence-based practices to local constraints, and (iv) design the implementation process to account for local constraints. Implementation science for resource-poor settings shifts this view from "resources as context" to "resources as primary research object." We find a growing body of implementation research aiming to discover and test novel approaches to generate resources for the delivery of evidence-based practice in routine care, including approaches to create higher-skilled health workers-through tele-education and telemedicine, freeing up higher-skilled health workers-through task-shifting and new technologies and models of care, and increasing laboratory capacity through new technologies and the availability of medicines through supply chain innovations. In contrast, only few studies have investigated approaches to change the behavior and utilization of healthcare resources in resource-poor settings. We identify three specific opportunities for implementation science in resource-poor settings. First, intervention and methods innovations thrive under constraints. Second, reverse innovation transferring novel approaches from resource-poor to research-rich settings will gain in importance. Third, policy makers in resource-poor countries tend to be open for close collaboration with scientists in implementation research projects aimed at informing national and local policy.
Conclusions: Implementation science in resource-poor countries and communities offers important opportunities for future discoveries and reverse innovation. To harness this potential, funders need to strongly support research projects in resource-poor settings, as well as the training of the next generation of implementation scientists working on new ways to create healthcare resources where they lack most and to ensure that those resources are utilized to deliver care that is based on the latest research results.
Keywords: Capacity; Capacity building; Implementation; Research methods; Resource-poor settings; Resources; Reverse innovation.