Adapting Translational Research Methods to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

Translational research applies scientific techniques to achieve practical outcomes, connecting pure research and pure practice. Many translational research types have arisen since the mid-1900s, reflecting the need to better integrate scientific advancement with policy and practice. Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) development efforts have aimed to reduce morbidity and mortality and improve service delivery; thus, associated research has a strong orientation toward applied studies that use diverse methods to support decision-making. Drawing from knowledge that emerged to support other professional fields, such as manufacturing and clinical healthcare, we characterize different types of translational research and clarify nomenclature and principles. We describe study approaches relevant to translational research questions, and offer overarching recommendations, specific examples, and resources for further study as practical advice to professionals who seek to apply translational methods to WaSH problems. To enhance collective outcomes, professionals should mindfully align projects within the translational spectrum. We further recommend overarching good practices such as documenting intervention adaptations, overtly considering contextual factors, and better distinguishing efficacy from effectiveness research by replicating studies in different contexts. By consciously improving the compatibility and linkages between WaSH science and practice, this guide can accelerate urgently needed progress toward global development goals.

Adapting translational research for water, sanitation, and hygiene. K. Setty, R. Cronk, S. George, D. Anderson, G. O’Flaherty, J. Bartram. 2019. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16:20, pp. 40-49.