Background: To examine the application of continuum models to tuberculosis, HIV, and other conditions; to theorize the concept of continua; and to learn lessons that could inform the development of improved care and prevention continua as public health metrics.
Methods: An analytic review of literature drawn from several fields of health care.
Results: The continuum construct is now part of public health evaluation systems for HIV, and is increasingly used in public health and the medical literature. Issues with the comparability and optimal design of care continuum models have been raised, and their methodologic and theoretic underpinnings and scope of focus have been underaddressed. Review of relevant publications suggests that a key limitation of current models is their lack of measures reflecting incidence and mortality. Issues relating to continua data being longitudinal or cross-sectional, definition of numerators and denominators for each step, data sources, measures of timeliness of step completion, theoretic models to facilitate inferences of causes of care continuum gaps, how measures of prevention efforts, reinfection/relapses, and interactions of continua for co-occurring comorbidities should be reflected, and how analyses of differences in retention over time, across geographic regions, and in response to interventions should be conducted are critical to the development of sound care and prevention continuum models.
Conclusion: Lessons learned from the application of continuum models to HIV and other conditions suggest that the application of well-formulated constructs of care and prevention continua, that depict, in well defined, standardized steps, incidence and mortality, along with degrees of and time to screening, engagement in care and prevention, treatment and treatment outcomes, including relapse or reinfection, may be vital tools in evaluating intervention and program outcomes, and in improving population health and population health metrics for a wide range conditions.