Capacity building for implementation research: a methodology for advancing health research and practice

Health Res Policy Syst. 2020 Jun 1;18(1):53. doi: 10.1186/s12961-020-00568-y.


Background: Implementation research is increasingly being recognised as an important discipline seeking to maximise the benefits of evidence-based interventions. Although capacity-building efforts are ongoing, there has been limited attention on the contextual and health system peculiarities in low- and middle-income countries. Moreover, given the challenges encountered during the implementation of health interventions, the field of implementation research requires a creative attempt to build expertise for health researchers and practitioners simultaneously. With support from the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, we have developed an implementation research short course that targets both researchers and practitioners. This paper seeks to explain the course development processes and report on training evaluations, highlighting its relevance for inter-institutional and inter-regional capacity strengthening.

Methods: The development of the implementation research course curriculum was categorised into four phases, namely the formation of a core curriculum development team, course content development, internal reviews and pilot, and external reviews and evaluations. Five modules were developed covering Introduction to implementation research, Methods in implementation research, Ethics and quality management in implementation research, Community and stakeholder engagement, and Dissemination in implementation research. Course evaluations were conducted using developed tools measuring participants' reactions and learning.

Results: From 2016 to 2018, the IR curriculum has been used to train a total of 165 researchers and practitioners predominantly from African countries, the majority of whom are males (57%) and researchers/academics (79.4%). Participants generally gave positive ratings (e.g. integration of concepts) for their reactions to the training. Under 'learnings', participants indicated improvement in their knowledge in areas such as identification of implementation research problems and questions.

Conclusion: The approach for training both researchers and practitioners offers a dynamic opportunity for the acquisition and sharing of knowledge for both categories of learners. This approach was crucial in demonstrating a key characteristic of implementation research (e.g. multidisciplinary) practically evident during the training sessions. Using such a model to effectively train participants from various low- and middle-income countries shows the opportunities this training curriculum offers as a capacity-building tool.

Keywords: Africa; Implementation research; LMICs; capacity-building; practitioners.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Capacity Building*
  • Curriculum*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Developing Countries
  • Ethics, Research
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / education*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Research / education*
  • Research Design
  • Research Personnel / education*
  • Stakeholder Participation*
  • Translational Research, Biomedical