We are in the midst of a revolution, the sort of time in which the title of a paper like, “Seventy-Five Trials and Eleven Systematic Reviews a Day: How Will We Ever Keep Up?”
(Note 1) makes perfect sense to us. That paper was written from the perspective of medical research, but it speaks to us nonetheless, as it applies to managing the volume of information and knowledge available to us, and most importantly, the challenges we face in finding and using relevant material. (Note 2)
||The NCCHPP believes that the best strategy for generating and using knowledge is to link those who are traditionally considered to be knowledge “producers” with those who are considered to be knowledge “users”. |
Indeed, part of the rationale for the National Collaborating Centres is to provide a crucial link between the research community and the world of practitioners, policy-makers and others with a role or a stake in improving public health. That is, helping to bridge knowledge with action.
How does research get noticed?
In a 2002 paper entitled Health policy-makers' perceptions of their use
of evidence: a systematic review, Innvaer et al. outlined the "most commonly
mentioned facilitators of the use of research evidence in policy-making." (Note 3) They were as follows:
• "Personal contact between researchers and policymakers,
• Timeliness and relevance of the research,
• Research that included a summary with clear recommendations",
• …. And down the list,
....a long way down, in fact....
....is "effectiveness data". (Note 4)
Linking research, practice and decision-making
Bringing the research community together with the broader public health and policy-making communities has multiple benefits. First, the potential gaps in research and identified needs among knowledge users are more likely to be communicated to those who can work on them. Secondly, having users' and decision-makers' active engagement in the development of research will strongly influence the likelihood of that research being used later on. Thirdly, with different actors and sectors involved there is a greater likelihood that different contextual factors, other kinds of knowledge (such as tacit knowledge, another kind of expertise), and deeper understanding of the issues behind a research agenda can inform the kind of work that is developed. Finally, with an emphasis on co-developing knowledge, the production can also aim towards results that are user-friendly, strongly oriented towards context, relevance and usefulness, with interactive methods for sharing the results.
There will always be an essential role for scientific research, traditionally understood, and there will always be standards for evaluating degrees of confidence or certainty that we may place in the results of research. This applies to work in healthy public policy as well. However, we must acknowledge that policy interventions often cannot be evaluated by controlled experimental methods. An approach to science as systematic study will allow additional sources of knowledge to be considered, while still granting that some methods are more systematic than others.
At the Centre, we try to broaden and deepen our knowledge about healthy public policies by applying ethical, economic and other social lenses, adding these important dimensions to particular issues in order to inform policies. Also, we consider the importance of the concept of evidence itself and try to recognize that evidence is not value-neutral: that it is defined by, and stands in relation to, a question and a frame (epistemological, social, contextual). What counts as evidence in a particular case depends on the context in which we ask the question.
Finally, we do our work from the perspective of generating knowledge collaboratively. This may mean discussion and analysis of research evidence in a group setting and considering its applicability to a policy environment, whether through deliberative or other processes. This may mean a round table considering factors supporting or impeding the implementation of Health Impact Assessment at the federal level. This may mean hosting meetings of researchers and practitioners to discuss applicability and gaps in research, as we have undertaken with an economic analysis of preventive interventions. The overall goal is to produce or stimulate collective insights that will light the way as to how to proceed.
Learn about public policies and their effects on health
Generate and use knowledge about healthy public policies
Identify models and actors for intersectoral collaboration
Influence the development of healthy public policies
Bastian, H., et al. 2010: PLoS Med 7(9): e1000326. doi:10.1371/ journal.pmed. 1000326
“We continue to live with these two problems—an overload of unfiltered information and lack of open access to information relevant to the well-being of patients.”
Ibid., p.1 “the Landscape”
Published in the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy .Vol 7 No 4, 2002: 239–244
Ibid., p. 241.
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