Opportunities for Epidemiologists in Implementation Science: A Primer

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Abstract

The field of epidemiology has been defined as the study of the spread and control of disease. However, epidemiology frequently focuses on studies of etiology and distribution of disease at the cost of understanding the best ways to control disease. Moreover, only a small fraction of scientific discoveries are translated into public health practice, and the process from discovery to translation is exceedingly slow. Given the importance of translational science, the future of epidemiologic training should include competency in implementation science, whose goal is to rapidly move evidence into practice. Our purpose in this paper is to provide epidemiologists with a primer in implementation science, which includes dissemination research and implementation research as defined by the National Institutes of Health. We describe the basic principles of implementation science, highlight key components for conducting research, provide examples of implementation studies that encompass epidemiology, and offer resources and opportunities for continued learning. There is a clear need for greater speed, relevance, and application of evidence into practice, programs, and policies and an opportunity to enable epidemiologists to conduct research that not only will inform practitioners and policy-makers of risk but also will enhance the likelihood that evidence will be implemented.

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