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Archived Comments for: Does the world need a scientific society for research on how to improve healthcare?

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  1. Consider a Federation National Societies

    Lisa Simpson, AcademyHealth

    4 June 2012

    As the president and CEO of AcademyHealth, the premier, U.S. organization for health services research and those who use evidence to improve health and health care, I read your editorial of February 29, 2012 with great interest.

    I would tend to agree that no single international organization currently exists to address the issues you raised and I am a firm believer in the value of international exchange and dialogue, having lived in eight countries on five continents! However, I am concerned that your commentary did not adequately reflect the important role that national and regional scientific societies play in both by addressing many of these needs in their host countries and responding to the unique characteristics of their own health systems. For example, AcademyHealth in the United States, the Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research (CAHSPR), the Health Services Research Association of Australia and New Zealand, the German Network for Health Services Research, and numerous others provide ¿ to varying degrees - a forum for scientific discourse through conferences, working groups and networking, numerous professional development opportunities and broad dissemination of research findings through traditional and alternative means. Whether these existing organizations and venues already provide ¿ or could in the future provide -- a welcoming enough home for implementation science AND international exchange would seem to be the question. While I would tend to agree that historically, AcademyHealth has not been successful at integrating international exchange or implementation science throughout its programs, I believe that this is now changing.

    Recognizing the vital and growing need for more cohesive understanding and application of implementation science, we would suggest that it might be better to create a federation of the various national and regional societies, to develop and share resources and convene meetings in something of a ¿United Nations¿ of implementation science. Thus, the subset of members of national and regional societies engaged in implementation science could be supported to develop a community of discourse and exchange while not losing the important links to other issues and research that provide much of the context for implementation science. As an example, AcademyHealth currently offers a reduced international member rate to enable our peers worldwide to enjoy discounted participation in our programs and access to all our online resources. Among these are programs in each of the areas enumerated in your editorial:

    Multi-disciplinary and science based: Membership in AcademyHealth is open to anyone with an interest in developing and using evidence to improve health and health care. Our family of over 4,400 individual and organizational members work in academic and other research settings, delivery systems, and federal and state governments. Thus, our members reflect the full trajectory of research from hypothesis, to testing, analysis, dissemination, translation and implementation. Approximately 55 percent of our members have an M.D. or Ph.D. and more than 55 percent self-identify research as their primary activity.

    Provide a forum for scientific exchange: Through in-person and virtual meetings, Interest Groups, official journals and other programs, AcademyHealth provides a forum for scientific exchange, research dissemination and translation. For example, the Annual Research Meeting offers over 120 scientific sessions and more than 800 poster presentations, drawing over 2,000 attendees annually. This year, 26 sessions focus on issues related to implementation of health reform, including quality improvement and delivery systems transformation efforts, as well as translation and dissemination of findings. One example is the session ¿The Science of Improvement and Evaluation¿ chaired by Don Goldmann from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Other sessions are focused on disparities reduction, health care costs, the emergence of new data resources, and other relevant topics. Interest Groups encourage topic-based discussion around areas of mutual interest. In 2012, we launched, an online social network that will enable scientific discussion and community building driven by our members and their interests. We would be delighted to have those engaged in implementation science use this platform to communicate, share and challenge us at AcademyHealth to be more responsive to this burgeoning field.

    Announce and/or offer relevant training via a website or online mailing group: In 2011, AcademyHealth offered nearly 20 online methods and skill building webinars, in addition to half day workshops and 90 minute methods sessions held in conjunction with the Annual Research Meeting. Our website houses more than three dozen English language webinars that cover methods, data, and content areas relevant to improving health and health care, with several focused on relevant methods for implementation science (e.g. ¿Mixed Methods in Delivery System Settings¿ led by Lucy Savitz, Ph.D., M.B.A.). In addition, we maintain an online calendar of professional development, career listings, scholarships and fellowships, and a website focused on research methods,, that is freely accessible and draws 48 percent of its subscribers from outside the United States.

    Help researchers in any field distribute their work: AcademyHealth is building on its long commitment to dissemination with the launch of the AcademyHealth Translation and Dissemination Institute in 2012, sponsored in part by an investment from our Board of Directors of financial reserves. The institute will actively promote the work of our field, solicit stakeholder input on what research is needed and relevant, and offer programs and scholarships to advance the science of translation and dissemination.

    Promote and advocate for our work: AcademyHealth advocates for the funding and data access necessary to generate timely, relevant and rigorous evidence to inform health and health care policy. We also educate policymakers about the impact and value of this work.

    We have also just completed an update to our strategic plan with our Board of Directors and identified delivery systems transformation as a priority area for new development. This is now being translated into a series of steps to further embed implementation science in our work and member support. We are also fortunate to have many leaders in implementation science actively engaged in our work, including Lisa Rubenstein and Don Goldmann on our Board of Directors, and Brian Mittman and Lucy Savitz on our Methods Council.

    It is with this perspective, and the experience of having worked with our peers around the world, that AcademyHealth urges the editors to consider ways to encourage connections between the various international organizations that already exist to serve the fields of health services research, health policy, and implementation science. This would allow us to focus on building on our strengths and efficiencies at a time when the rapid deployment of implementation science is critical.

    Having worked with our international peers in the execution of study tours, the establishment of cross-border student chapters, and the provision of reduced fee international memberships, AcademyHealth has enjoyed the benefits of multinational perspectives and would welcome an opportunity to partner in such an effort.

    Competing interests

    None declared