Directors Call for Implementation Science to be Placed Within a Broader Context

In the September issue of Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (JAIDS), MEASURE Evaluation directors expressed reservations about randomized experiments, explaining that they “are suitable and feasible for only a small portion of HIV interventions” in a letter to the editor.

In the March 2011 issue of J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr., Nancy S. Padian et al. detailed the new Implementation Science framework adopted by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), lauding the framework’s mixture of monitoring and evaluation, operations research and impact evaluation.  In their explanation of impact evaluation, the authors promoted the use of randomized experimental designs, which allow causal attribution to a particular program.  

In the September edition of the journal, MEASURE Evaluation Deputy Director of HIV and Infectious Diseases James C. Thomas, MEASURE Evaluation Director Sian Curtis and MEASURE Evaluation Deputy Director of Knowledge Management, Capacity Building and Data Demand and Use Jason B. Smith, responded with a letter to the editor.  

“We agree with the need for more and better program evaluation to inform HIV prevention efforts worldwide,” they wrote. “However, we believe some of the evaluation approaches in the OGAC framework need to be placed within a larger context.”

They expressed particular reservations about the article’s endorsement of randomized experiments, explaining that they “are suitable and feasible for only a small portion of HIV interventions.”  They also pointed out that the strategy of isolating a program element and measuring its effect contradicts the Global Health Initiative (GHI) principle of increasing impact through strategic coordination and integration of programs.  

With this letter, MEASURE Evaluation’s leadership added to the dialogue about Implementation Science with the intention of improving understanding about the subject, as they explained in their conclusion:

“Our interest, then, is to ensure that J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. readers understand the broader context into which the OGAC guidance is introduced and to recognize where their recommendations for impact evaluation fall in the range of evaluation approaches endorsed by other sources of guidance.”