Implementation science is an evolving field that aims to use evidence and rigorously acquired knowledge to close quality and outcome gaps in health and human services. However, we still have work to do as a field to advance equity, particularly for historically underserved populations.

To advance equity, implementation researchers and practitioners must engage in a consistent process of knowledge development, intervention selection, and use of implementation strategies, all focused squarely on equity. We can achieve equity in implementation science only by integrating the voices and wisdom of historically oppressed communities and reflecting on our own behaviors and values as implementation researchers and practitioners.

We must also critically assess the gaps between the intentions and the impact of our work. Equitable implementation requires us to engage in social justice inquiry of our work and pursue fair, restorative, and equitable outcomes. In light of such inquiry, we propose that if we are to truly engage in equity work, all interventions and accompanying implementation strategies must address social determinants of health (SDOH)—the broad range of social, economic, political, and psychosocial factors that directly or indirectly shape health outcomes and contribute to health disparities. Health is not just the absence of disease, but also the presence of the resources and supports that people need to thrive.

The public health response to COVID-19 has made social distancing part of everyday language. When coupled with other interventions such as masking and hand-washing, social distancing has proven to be an effective evidence-based intervention for combatting respiratory virus epidemics. However, social distancing as an intervention has also shown us the negative consequences of implementing interventions with a single target (i.e., the prevention of disease) without examining context. For example, school shutdowns have exacerbated preexisting inequities in education, while limiting developmentally necessary social contact for children and taxing household resources.

Read the full article about equity in implementation science by Ana A. Baumann and Pamela Denise Long at Stanford Social Innovation Review.