Fostering Evidence-Based Decision-Making in Canada: Examining the Need for a Canadian Population and Public Health Evidence Centre and Research Network

By Kiefer, Lori; Frank, John et al. | Canadian Journal of Public Health, May/June 2005 | Go to article overview

Fostering Evidence-Based Decision-Making in Canada: Examining the Need for a Canadian Population and Public Health Evidence Centre and Research Network


Kiefer, Lori, Frank, John, Di Ruggiero, Erica, Dobbins, Maureen, et al., Canadian Journal of Public Health


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In early 2002, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Institute of Population and Public Health (CIHR-IPPH), with the advice of a multi-agency working group, embarked on a review of the literature to examine the issues and barriers related to Canadian population and public health (PPH) knowledge generation, dissemination and exchange, and uptake. The literature review was complemented by interviews with more than 30 Canadian, American, and United Kingdom organizations that are active in PPH research, especially synthesis research. Research organizations were asked about the mechanisms they use to support PPH research generation, synthesis, transfer, and exchange, as well as their impressions of the need for new Canadian organizational structures to encourage a more integrated approach to these tasks, including challenges to be addressed.

This research project complements and builds on previous work of the CIHR-IPPH* (in partnership with the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canadian Population Health Initiative (CIHI-CPHI)), which consulted PPH researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers to identify research and knowledge transfer and exchange priorities in population and public health. During these consultation sessions, a number of challenges and opportunities were raised in relation to the synthesis, exchange and transfer of the knowledge acquired through research initiatives. Participants identified three priorities for action: 1) research on the factors contributing to effective knowledge transfer by policy-makers and practitioners; 2) effective ways of communicating PPH knowledge to key stakeholder groups and the public, including effective and innovative use of various media and accessible language for different audiences; and 3) greater investment in knowledge synthesis, diffusion and transfer initiatives, such as the development of high-quality synthesis and meta-analysis on population and public health interventions.

The current project was undertaken in response to these identified gaps in the existence of, access to, and uptake of easily usable, high-quality, practice-relevant PPH research evidence. Specifically, these investigations revealed a number of critical issues around the incorporation of PPH research evidence into policy and program planning:

* Issues of the Evidence Base[dagger] - beyond a lack of primary research in the PPH field, there are issues of evidence synthesis:

- identification of Canadian research and synthesis priorities, including more congruence between the needs of research users and the research questions that are investigated and evidence that is produced,

- coordination and enhanced efficiency of a Canadian PPH research agenda,

- awareness of existing research and syntheses,

- methods for PPH evidence synthesis,

- production and dissemination of new research and syntheses.

* Issues of Knowledge Transfer and Exchange

- researchers' need for support in knowledge exchange activities,

- recognition and tackling of the lack of academic reward for knowledge exchange activities that are designed to reach the PPH user,

- need to develop and utilize electronic dissemination methods,

- need for more active knowledge exchange.

* Issues of Knowledge Uptake and Utilization

- need for relevant and timely research knowledge to reach the PPH user, in usable formats,

- need for ongoing training in PPH organizations to access, consult, and also produce relevant research,

- need for a shift in the culture of PPH organizations to value research as an integral component of policy and program design, and decision-making.

* Issues of Evaluation

- need for evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency of knowledge transfer/exchange strategies, in multiple populations and settings,

- need for evaluation of knowledge uptake and incorporation into policy and decision-making,

- need for evaluation of impact on population health outcomes.

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