Definitions of operational, implementation and health systems research released

PLoS publication of TDR-supported report

TDR news item
16 November 2010

At the start of the First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Montreux, Switzerland, a new study was released outlining a draft of definitions of the various types of research being discussed at this conference -- implementation, operations and health systems research. This TDR-supported study provides a simple framework that can be understood by both experts in the field and the managers, policy makers, and donors working to improve health systems and deliver better health care.

Each area involves multidisciplinary research that tends to use the same type of quantitative and qualitative research methods. But these three research domains differ in the type of research questions they address, in the way they are designed, and in their expected outcomes.

Operational research and implementation research are action-oriented, respond to operational problems or implementation challenges, and work towards developing targeted solutions. Research on health system challenges addresses more complex, systems problems and is geared towards improving the understanding of what works for whom and under what circumstances. It provides guidance on what might work better within the system as a whole.

The 1200 participants at the global symposium are sharing lessons learned within health systems and working toward more common definitions and strategies to strengthen national health care systems and increase universal access to health care.