Best practice recommendations for conducting after-action reviews to enhance public health preparedness

technical report
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European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Best practice recommendations for conducting after-action reviews to enhance public health preparedness. Stockholm: ECDC; 2018.

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An integral part of improving preparedness and response planning is learning from past public health emergencies. Conducting after-action reviews (AARs) is a way of capturing such learnings, but there is no standardised approach to conducting such assessments. In order to support public health practitioners in making the best use of AARs, this ECDC technical report identifies common features of AARs, provides a validity assessment tool to appraise them, and proposes a set of best practice recommendations.

Executive summary

The best choice of AAR methodology depends on the impact and severity of the incident itself, the immediacy of the improvements required, and the resources available for the review. Therefore, this report does not recommend a single best methodology for the purposes of preparedness planning. Instead it outlines key stages, good practice and minimum standard dimensions to consider when planning and undertaking an AAR, alongside 11 validity-boosting recommendations that every AAR practitioner should consider to improve the use of AAR methodology.

For the development of the best practice framework proposed in this ECDC report, a focused scoping review was performed in order to identify the key common features of AARs and an 11-item tool was then developed to appraise and rank the validity of AAR approaches. The tool was applied to 24 papers describing 22 AARs, in order to identify key gaps between the theory and practice of ARRs. Based on the review, practical and actionable measures that could be undertaken to enhance the methodological validity of AARs were identified.