The vitamin A supplementation (VAS) program is considered a global success story. By applying an implementation research (IR) framework to VAS, this paper highlights key factors that have contributed to the program’s success. Viewing VAS through this historical perspective offers lessons that are transferable to other programs in implementing them more effectively.
An IR framework was adapted from Peters et al. 2013. “Implementation research in health: a practical guide”. Using PubMed and Google Scholar, a literature review was conducted to retrospectively examine VAS using the framework. Qualitative information is presented to provide insight into the history, progress, and future of the program. This information is complemented with supplementation coverage data and country examples.
The literature review identifies that VAS has moved through cycles of research, demonstration, and scale-up. The program is currently transitioning into the sustainability phase; the literature indicates a shift towards increased national investments and integration into routine systems. During the past twenty years, VAS has established and achieved efficacy, acceptability, feasibility, affordability, replicability, coverage, and policy adoption, all of which are essential components of attaining program success. Studies that highlight these key turning points are presented.
This framework was not available twenty years ago, but a retrospective look shows how VAS has essentially followed this process. Had the framework been developed earlier, perhaps global success could have been achieved sooner. This example indicates that IR is necessary in documenting and sharing lessons that may help other nutrition interventions accelerate scale-up at national and global levels.