A traditional view holds that the medical and public health work environment changes as a result of the adoption of best practices that, in turn, are based on scientific research. However, this linear and one-way paradigm of translating science into practice is far too limited. As we increasingly appreciate, sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinical and prevention practice is shaped by a number of forces other than science alone: feasibility, acceptability, yield, cost, available resources, and the interest and enthusiasm of the work force to continuously improve quality and innovate in the face of reduced funding. All determine the ultimate translation and effectiveness of scientific evidence and best-practice guidelines into the real world of STD prevention and thus their impact on public health.
“The Real World of STD Prevention,” therefore, seems an appropriate title for a new section in Sexually Transmitted Diseases that provides an editorial framework for articles focusing on STD clinical and prevention practice and the science-to-program interface. This section, a collaborative effort between the journal and STD Prevention Online, aims to address this 2-way exchange by publishing “downstream” evaluations and reports of the translation and implementation of guidelines and research findings into the practice setting, as well as the “upstream” description and evaluation of innovations developed at the individual practice site. The primary audience for these publications comprises STD clinical and prevention practitioners including clinicians, disease intervention specialists, prevention workers, program administrators, and those involved with training the STD prevention workforce.
Of course, these types of articles have appeared in the journal before. However, by providing a special framework, we hope to emphasize the importance of these publications for STD prevention practice, and by publishing these manuscripts free of charge in the journal and on STD Prevention Online simultaneously, we aim to attract a readership that has not been traditionally reached by the journal. Manuscripts published in the new section will be accompanied by an editorial comment to discuss their relevance for clinical and prevention practice. Use of the STD Prevention Online Web site to publicize the work though blogs and podcasts and also to facilitate reader feedback will further enhance access to the work. The frequency of this section appearing in the journal will depend on the availability of suitable manuscripts, and we encourage readers of the journal and members of STD Prevention Online to consider submitting manuscripts for publication in this section. To be clear, manuscripts submitted or solicited for this section will be held to the same high standard as other manuscripts submitted to the journal and will go through the same peer-review process.
We envision this section to be a part of the larger concept of “program science,” defined as “the systematic application of theoretical and empirical scientific knowledge to improve the design, implementation and evaluation of public health programs.”1,2 Thus, program science is a systems-level, scientific framework to determine the most effective and most efficient combination and integration of prevention program components that will yield the greatest impact on STD/HIV transmission. A series on program science was recently launched by 2 of us (S.A. and J.B.) in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections. However, in contrast to articles in the program science series, the focus of the articles featured in The Real World of STD Prevention will be on the more specific 2-way translational issues and outcomes related to programs and services provided by individual STD clinics or local or state health department STD prevention programs. Moreover, the studies we intend to publish in this new section focus on practical issues and program evaluation rather than addressing broader scientific questions within the realm of program science. It is our hope that through The Real World of STD Prevention, we increase the visibility of the journal and its organization, the American STD Association, to the large group of front-line STD prevention workers and engage them in shaping the future of both.
1. 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: 2–3.
2. Aral SO, Blanchard JF. The program science initiative: Improving the planning, implementation and evaluation of HIV/STI prevention programs. Sex Transm Infect 2012; 88: 157–159.