• Woman carrying a load of branches on her head.
  • Program Science actively seeks to bridge gaps between research and programming by employing an iterative process whereby empirical and situated knowledge derived from programs drives scientific inquiry, which then produces further evidence that is incorporated rapidly into programming to optimize service delivery.

    Ultimately, the goal of the Program Science approach is to maximize the population-level impact of a program by using the right strategy for the right populations at the right time; by doing the right things the right way; and by ensuring appropriate scale.

How does it work?

Program and research goals are aligned to optimize population-level health impact and work toward equity in health outcomes.

This alignment requires sustained engagement and mutually beneficial partnerships involving collaborations between community members; program planners, managers, and implementers; researchers; as well as policy- and decision-makers within national and local-level governments. 

Three spheres of practice guide the operationalization of Program Science: 

Strategic planning & resource allocation

  • Determining program priorities, developing resource allocation strategies
  • Characterizing and understanding local epidemiological context to identify priority geographies and populations through multidisciplinary approaches and complementary methods (e.g., population size estimation, rapid ethnographic assessment, biobehavioural survey, mathematical modelling)

Program implementation

  • Identifying appropriate program components/services, optimal delivery platforms
  • Actively engaging with local community to facilitate contextualized programmatic responses
  • Refining and adapting program components, delivery platforms, and implementation strategies using embedded research

Program management & monitoring

  • Ongoing program monitoring, including process documentation
  • Continuously analysing program data to identify opportunity gaps, monitor indicator quality and validity, and examine trends in program outputs and outcomes

Together, the spheres of practice feed into the development and refinement of shared program learning and research agenda, which are constantly reviewed and revised to accommodate the evolving needs of a public health program.

Why use it?

Enhanced program responsiveness

A Program Science approach allows programs to be flexible, nimble, and adaptable to identify, evaluate, and respond to programmatic complexities in a timely manner, as they emerge. 

Synergistic collaboration

In a Program Science framework, multidisciplinary teams work together to build upon their diverse strengths to create synergies that contribute to program optimization to improve population-level impact and work toward equity in health outcomes. 

Long-term partnerships

Intersectoral partnerships are the foundation of a Program Science approach. These partnerships last beyond single projects and periods of funding turnover, creating a sustainable foundation for further work to improve a program’s population-level outcomes.

Learn more about technical collaboration and program science (PDF)

Additional reading

Conceptualizations of Program Science

Aral SO, Blanchard JF. The Program Science initiative: improving the planning, implementation and evaluation of HIV/STI prevention programs. Sex Transm Infect 2012; 88(3): 157-9.

Blanchard JF, Aral SO. Program Science: an initiative to improve the planning, implementation and evaluation of HIV/sexually transmitted infection prevention programmes. Sex Transm Infect 2011; 87(1): 2-3.

Applications of Program Science

Becker M, Haworth-Brockman M, Keynan Y. The value of program science to optimize knowledge brokering on infectious diseases for public health. BMC Public Health 2018; 18(1): 567.

Becker M, Mishra S, Aral S, et al. The contributions and future direction of Program Science in HIV/STI prevention. Emerg Themes Epidemiol 2018; 15: 7.

Crockett M, Avery L, Blanchard J. Program science--a framework for improving global maternal, newborn, and child health. JAMA pediatrics 2015; 169(4): 305-6.

McClarty LM, Bhattacharjee P, Isac S, et al. Key Programme Science lessons from an HIV prevention 'Learning Site' for sex workers in Mombasa, Kenya. Sex Transm Infect 2018; 94(5): 346-52.

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University of Manitoba (Bannatyne campus)
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