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Concept: Initiative


BACKGROUND: Although significant advances have been made in implementation science, comparatively less attention has been paid to broader scale-up and spread of effective health programs at the regional, national, or international level. To address this gap in research, practice and policy attention, representatives from key stakeholder groups launched an initiative to identify gaps and stimulate additional interest and activity in scale-up and spread of effective health programs. We describe the background and motivation for this initiative and the content, process, and outcomes of two main phases comprising the core of the initiative: a state-of-the-art conference to develop recommendations for advancing scale-up and spread and a follow-up activity to operationalize and prioritize the recommendations. The conference was held in Washington, D.C. during July 2010 and attended by 100 representatives from research, practice, policy, public health, healthcare, and international health communities; the follow-up activity was conducted remotely the following year. DISCUSSION: Conference attendees identified and prioritized five recommendations (and corresponding sub-recommendations) for advancing scale-up and spread in health: increase awareness, facilitate information exchange, develop new methods, apply new approaches for evaluation, and expand capacity. In the follow-up activity, ‘develop new methods’ was rated as most important recommendation; expanding capacity was rated as least important, although differences were relatively minor. SUMMARY: Based on the results of these efforts, we discuss priority activities that are needed to advance research, practice and policy to accelerate the scale-up and spread of effective health programs.

Concepts: Health care, Health economics, Public health, Health, Policy, Stakeholder, Initiative, Avengers: The Initiative


Implementation studies are often poorly reported and indexed, reducing their potential to inform initiatives to improve healthcare services. The Standards for Reporting Implementation Studies (StaRI) initiative aimed to develop guidelines for transparent and accurate reporting of implementation studies. Informed by the findings of a systematic review and a consensus-building e-Delphi exercise, an international working group of implementation science experts discussed and agreed the StaRI Checklist comprising 27 items. It prompts researchers to describe both the implementation strategy (techniques used to promote implementation of an underused evidence-based intervention) and the effectiveness of the intervention that was being implemented. An accompanying Explanation and Elaboration document (published in BMJ Open, doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013318) details each of the items, explains the rationale, and provides examples of good reporting practice. Adoption of StaRI will improve the reporting of implementation studies, potentially facilitating translation of research into practice and improving the health of individuals and populations.

Concepts: Improve, Evidence-based medicine, Report, Research, Implementation, Explanation, Potential, Initiative


There are approximately 426,000 people residing within care homes in the UK. Residents often have complex trajectories of dying, which make it difficult for staff to manage their end-of-life care. There is growing recognition for the need to support care homes staff in the care of these residents with increased educational initiatives. One educational initiative is The Six Steps to Success programme.

Concepts: Death, Life, United Kingdom, End-of-life care, Anarchy in the U.K., Referendum, Initiative, Avengers: The Initiative


Hugo Chávez dominated the Venezuelan electoral landscape since his first presidential victory in 1998 until his death in 2013. Nobody doubts that he always received considerable voter support in the numerous elections held during his mandate. However, the integrity of the electoral system has come into question since the 2004 Presidential Recall Referendum. From then on, different sectors of society have systematically alleged electoral irregularities or biases in favor of the incumbent party. We have carried out a thorough forensic analysis of the national-level Venezuelan electoral processes held during the 1998-2012 period to assess these complaints. The second-digit Benford’s law and two statistical models of vote distributions, recently introduced in the literature, are reviewed and used in our case study. In addition, we discuss a new method to detect irregular variations in the electoral roll. The outputs obtained from these election forensic tools are examined taking into account the substantive context of the elections and referenda under study. Thus, we reach two main conclusions. Firstly, all the tools uncover anomalous statistical patterns, which are consistent with election fraud from 2004 onwards. Although our results are not a concluding proof of fraud, they signal the Recall Referendum as a turning point in the integrity of the Venezuelan elections. Secondly, our analysis calls into question the reliability of the electoral register since 2004. In particular, we found irregular variations in the electoral roll that were decisive in winning the 50% majority in the 2004 Referendum and in the 2012 Presidential Elections.

Concepts: Voting, Elections, Election, Referendum, Voting system, Initiative, Representative democracy, By-election


Electronic Palliative Care Coordination Systems (EPaCCS) are England’s pre-eminent initiative in enabling advance care planning and improved communication and coordination at the end of life. EPaCCS have been under development for 8 years after being proposed, as Locality Registers, in the 2008 End of Life Care Strategy for England. EPaCCS are electronic registers or tools and processes for sharing data which aim to enable access to information about dying patients. Striking outcomes have been reported around EPaCCS, such as 77.8% of ‘Coordinate My Care’ patients dying in their preferred place. EPaCCS have, however, been extremely challenging to develop and implement, with many projects remaining continuously ‘under development’ or folding. They also continue to be suboptimally integrated with other data sharing initiatives. Rigorous research is non-existent.

Concepts: Game theory, Patient, Life, Palliative care, Enabling, Human Development Index, Development, Initiative


The Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative is a federally funded innovation model mandated by the Affordable Care Act. It is designed to help transition Medicare away from fee-for-service payments and toward bundling a single payment for an episode of acute care in a hospital and related postacute care in an appropriate setting. While results from the initiative will not be available for several years, current data can help provide critical early insights. However, little is known about the participating organizations and how they are focusing their efforts. We identified participating hospitals and used national Medicare claims data to assess their characteristics and previous spending patterns. These hospitals are mostly large, nonprofit, teaching hospitals in the Northeast, and they have selectively enrolled in the bundled payment initiative covering patient conditions with high clinical volumes. We found no significant differences in episode-based spending between participating and nonparticipating hospitals. Postacute care explains the largest variation in overall episode-based spending, signaling an opportunity to align incentives across providers. However, the focus on a few selected clinical conditions and the high degree of integration that already exists between enrolled hospitals and postacute care providers may limit the generalizability of bundled payment across the Medicare system.

Concepts: Health insurance, Patient, Hospital, Integral, Payment, Teaching hospital, Initiative, Business terms


Background:The Cancer Networks Supporting Primary Care programme was a National Health Service (NHS) initiative in England between 2011 and 2013 that aimed to better understand and improve referral practices for suspected cancer.Methods:A mixed methods evaluation using semi-structured interviews with purposefully sampled key stakeholders and an analysis of Cancer Waiting Times and Hospital Episode Statistics data for all 8179 practices in England were undertaken. We compared periods before (2009/10) and at the end (2012/13) of the initiative for practices taking up any one of four specified quality improvement initiatives expected to change referral practice in the short to medium term and those that did not.Results:Overall, 38% of general practices were involved in at least one of four quality improvement activities (clinical audit, significant event analysis, use of risk assessment tools and development of practice plans). Against an overall 29% increase in urgent cancer referrals between 2009/10 and 2012/13, these practices had a significantly higher increase in referral rate, with reduced between-practice variation. There were no significant differences between the two groups in conversion, detection or emergency presentation rates. Key features of successful implementation at practice and network level reported by participants included leadership, organisational culture and physician involvement. Concurrent health service reforms created organisational uncertainty and limited the programme’s effectiveness.Conclusions:Specific primary care initiatives promoted by cancer networks had an additional and positive impact on urgent referrals for suspected cancer. Successful engagement with the programmes depended on effective and well-supported leadership by cancer networks and their general practitioner (GP) leads.British Journal of Cancer advance online publication, 3 March 2015; doi:10.1038/bjc.2015.43

Concepts: Better, General practitioner, National Health Service, Primary care, Family medicine, Initiative, Avengers: The Initiative, Direct democracy


Reforms to the legal status of medical and non-medical cannabis are underway in many jurisdictions, including Canada, as are renewed efforts to scale-up HIV treatment-as-prevention (TasP) initiatives. It has been suggested that high-intensity cannabis use may be associated with sub-optimal HIV treatment outcomes. Thus, using data from a setting with a community-wide treatment-as-prevention (TasP) initiative coinciding with increasing access to medical cannabis, we sought to investigate the possible impact of high-intensity cannabis use on HIV clinical outcomes.

Concepts: HIV, Immune system, Pharmacology, Infectious disease, Drug injection, Oregon, Referendum, Initiative


Local health department (LHD) vector control programs have experienced reductions in funding and capacity. Acknowledging this situation and its potential effect on the ability to respond to vector-borne diseases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Public Health Foundation partnered on a performance management initiative for LHD vector control programs. The initiative involved 14 programs that conducted a performance assessment using the Environmental Public Health Performance Standards. The programs, assisted by quality improvement (QI) experts, used the assessment results to prioritize improvement areas that were addressed with QI projects intended to increase effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of services such as responding to mosquito complaints and educating the public about vector-borne disease prevention. This article describes the initiative as a process LHD vector control programs may adapt to meet their performance management needs. This study also reviews aggregate performance assessment results and QI projects, which may reveal common aspects of LHD vector control program performance and priority improvement areas. LHD vector control programs interested in performance assessment and improvement may benefit from engaging in an approach similar to this performance management initiative.

Concepts: Public health, Epidemiology, Effectiveness, Management, Preventive medicine, The Delivery, Initiative, PDCA


This article describes the National Institute of Mental Health’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative. The description includes background, rationale, goals, and the way the initiative has been developed and organized. The central RDoC concepts are summarized and the current matrix of constructs that have been vetted by workshops of extramural scientists is depicted. A number of theoretical and methodological issues that can arise in connection with the nature of RDoC constructs are highlighted: subjectivism and heterophenomenology, desynchrony and theoretical neutrality among units of analysis, theoretical reductionism, endophenotypes, biomarkers, neural circuits, construct “grain size,” and analytic challenges. The importance of linking RDoC constructs to psychiatric clinical problems is discussed. Some pragmatics of incorporating RDoC concepts into applications for NIMH research funding are considered, including sampling design.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Philosophy of language, Science, Semantics, Psychiatry, The Central, Initiative