The transfer and implementation of acceptable and effective health services, programs and innovations across settings provides an important and potentially cost-effective strategy for reducing Indigenous Australians' high burden of disease. This study reports a systematic review of Indigenous health services, programs and innovations to examine the extent to which studies considered processes of transfer and implementation within and across Indigenous communities and healthcare settings.
Medline, Informit, Infotrac, Blackwells Publishing, Proquest, Taylor and Francis, JStor, and the Indigenous HealthInfoNet were searched using terms: Aborigin* OR Indigen* OR Torres AND health AND service OR program* OR intervention AND Australia to locate publications from 1992–2011. The reference lists of 19 reviews were also checked. Data from peer reviewed journals, reports, and websites were included. The 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) for proportions that referred to and focussed on transfer were calculated as exact binomial confidence intervals. Test comparisons between proportions were calculated using Fisher's exact test with an alpha level of 5%.
Of 1311 publications identified, 119 (9.1%; 95% CI: 7.6% - 10.8%) referred to the transfer and implementation of Indigenous Australian health services or programs, but only 21 studies (1.6%; 95% CI: 1.0% - 2.4%) actually focused on transfer and implementation. Of the 119 transfer studies, 37 (31.1%; 95% CI: 22.9 - 40.2%) evaluated the impact of a service or program, 28 (23.5%; 95% CI: 16.2% - 32.2%) reported only process measures and 54 were descriptive. Of the 37 impact evaluation studies, 28 (75.7%; 95% CI: 58.8% - 88.2%) appeared in peer reviewed journals but none included experimental designs.
While services and programs are being transferred and implemented, few studies focus on the process by which this occurred or the effectiveness of the service or program in the new setting. Findings highlight a need for partnerships between researchers and health services to evaluate the transfer and implementation of Indigenous health services and programs using rigorous designs, and publish such efforts in peer-reviewed journals as a quality assurance mechanism.