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Embracing dynamic public health policy impacts in infectious diseases responses: leveraging implementation science to improve practice.

Branch-Elliman W, Elwy AR, Chambers DA. Embracing dynamic public health policy impacts in infectious diseases responses: leveraging implementation science to improve practice. Frontiers in public health. 2023 Aug 17; 11:1207679.

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RATIONALE: The host-pathogen relationship is inherently dynamic and constantly evolving. Applying an implementation science lens to policy evaluation suggests that policy impacts are variable depending upon key implementation outcomes (feasibility, acceptability, appropriateness costs) and conditions and contexts. COVID-19 CASE STUDY: Experiences with non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) including masking, testing, and social distancing/business and school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic response highlight the importance of considering public health policy impacts through an implementation science lens of constantly evolving contexts, conditions, evidence, and public perceptions. As implementation outcomes (feasibility, acceptability) changed, the effectiveness of these interventions changed thereby altering public health policy impact. Sustainment of behavioral change may be a key factor determining the duration of effectiveness and ultimate impact of pandemic policy recommendations, particularly for interventions that require ongoing compliance at the level of the individual. PRACTICAL FRAMEWORK FOR ASSESSING AND EVALUATING PANDEMIC POLICY: Updating public health policy recommendations as more data and alternative interventions become available is the evidence-based policy approach and grounded in principles of implementation science and dynamic sustainability. Achieving the ideal of real-time policy updates requires improvements in public health data collection and analysis infrastructure and a shift in public health messaging to incorporate uncertainty and the necessity of ongoing changes. In this review, the Dynamic Infectious Diseases Public Health Response Framework is presented as a model with a practical tool for iteratively incorporating implementation outcomes into public health policy design with the aim of sustaining benefits and identifying when policies are no longer functioning as intended and need to be adapted or de-implemented. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Real-time decision making requires sensitivity to conditions on the ground and adaptation of interventions at all levels. When asking about the public health effectiveness and impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions, the focus should be on , and they can achieve public health impact. In the future, rather than focusing on models of public health intervention effectiveness that assume static impacts, policy impacts should be considered as dynamic with ongoing re-evaluation as conditions change to meet the ongoing needs of the ultimate end-user of the intervention: the public.

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