Maximizing Impact: Leveraging the Role of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists for Implementation Science

Nov 29, 2017

One of USAID’s global health goals is to prevent child and maternal deaths. Achieving this goal will require engagement from stakeholders across sectors to generate and translate relevant evidence that informs policies and practices in real time. One efficient way to impact wide segments of low- and middle-income country populations is to establish platforms for learning from and adapting evidence-based policies and best practice guidelines proven to be successful in other countries and contexts.

Obstetricians and gynaecologists, as providers of oftentimes indispensable care, are stakeholders in this effort. Much of this group’s critical work deals with assessing issues on a case-by-case basis and implementing interventions to ensure that no mother dies as a result of pregnancy or childbirth.  A recent presentation by the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) during the RSOG/ECSACOG meeting provided an overview of implementation science (IS) and sparked a critical discussion of the potential for IS to improve their work.

During IDI’s presentation, it became clear that some practitioners in the room had not considered implementation as a research area, nor did they recognize it as a different but complementary science to their practice. However, the potential transformative impact of sharing knowledge about implementation approaches stood out as a fundamental understanding among conference goers, and was summarized by one practitioner in attendance who noted,

“We do what we have to do to save a life. If it works, we continue doing it and share that knowledge with colleagues facing similar challenges.”

Participants at IDI's lunch session

Participants at IDI’s lunch session

Indeed, many practitioners at the conference described sharing their experiences via social media, case conferences, teaching rounds, and sometimes through formal presentations. However, critical discussion revealed that many had not considered the process of documenting their practices and sharing them as valid scientific work.  For those practitioners, their perception of “real research” was limited to clinical trials, cohort studies, and other traditional scientific methods.

Implementation science offers the opportunity for practitioners to further maximize their effectiveness and impact.  The reality is that obstetricians and gynaecologists, as practitioners and “implementation experts,” already lead the way in designing and executing innovative interventions that save mothers or avert complications. Professional associations and societies are critical to both identifying challenges that warrant further assessment and using results to inform improvements in policy and practice.