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What is implementation science anyway?...And what does it have to do with wellness?

Updated: Dec 17, 2021

Most folks are pretty familiar with what it means to be a physician and even a clinical researcher, but when I mention that I am also an implementation scientist, that’s when I get a, “Huh?”

So, what exactly is implementation science?

Implementation science is an emerging field, so the definition can vary depending on who you ask. I think the most complete definition comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH defines implementation science as “the study of methods to promote the adoption and integration of evidence-based practices, interventions, and policies into routine health care and public health settings”.

Great definition, but a bit of a mouthful. Let’s break it down a little.

What we are talking about here is a multidisciplinary area of research that asks purpose-driven questions in order to identify and fill gaps along a continuum of service delivery.

Implementation scientists ask questions like:

Are we doing the right things? In the right places? At the right time? For the right people?

To appropriately answer these questions, implementation science works to:

(1) Incorporate elements of clinical medicine, social psychology, public health and policy, behavioral economics, and organizational theory to understand how, why, and to whom an evidence-based practice should be delivered;

(2) Practice team science by bringing organizational leaders, researchers, experts, clinicians, policy makers, patients, and even entire communities into the conversation; and

(3) Use robust, inclusive, and culturally informed strategies to research, evaluate, and implement evidence-based programming.

Ok, but what does implementation science have to do with wellness?

Implementation science has everything to do with wellness! We now understand that wellness requires attention not only to our mental and physical health, but also to our sense of social well being and belonging. Our overall sense of wellness is directly impacted by all aspects of our daily lives.

Advances in healthcare, technology, and communications have expanded the reach of effective evidence-based practices that have the potential to improve overall wellness on the broader population level. We are seeing more and more holistic and multifaceted approaches to health and wellness spread from clinics and doctors’ offices into our smartphones, homes, schools, and even workplaces.

Implementation science allows us to combine new advances and new technologies with everything we already know about effective health and wellness strategies. With this we can better engage organizations, existing systems, communities, and individuals in novel and innovative ways. When all is said and done, the goal of implementation science is to promote and encourage health and overall wellness in inclusive, evidence-informed, and sustainable ways.

Let’s all be well.

Chibuzo Enemchukwu, MD, MS is an internal medicine and infectious diseases physician, implementation scientist, and co-founder of Nelu Diversified Consulting Solutions LLC.

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