Journal article

Increasing the use of research in population health policies and programs: a rapid review

Health Medicine
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Background and objectives: Although the body of literature on factors that impede and enhance the use of research in policy making continues to expand, there is limited evidence about strategies that are effective at fostering the use of research in population health policy and programs. Building on previous reviews, we reviewed the published literature to identify and assess papers describing intervention studies that had outcome measures relating to research use.

Study type: Rapid review

Methods: We searched four academic databases and Google Scholar to identify papers published between 2009 and 2015. Our focus was on strategies relevant to population health policy and program delivery. For studies that tested strategies to increase the use of research, we extracted details about the intervention, participants, study sites and methods, and primary and other outcomes.

Results: We identified 14 articles reporting on 13 intervention studies. The studies were relatively weak methodologically and together provide few indications of effect. Only one study used an experimental design and one other used pre-/post-test design; the remaining studies were characterised by an absence of control groups, small sample sizes, and self-report data. Of the 13 studies: four intervention studies were related to the theme ‘relevant, useful, accessible research’; five studies (described in six papers) tested strategies that facilitated interaction between researchers and research users; three studies assessed strategies aimed at enhancing the capacity of organisations to use research; and one intervention study was related to the theme ‘funding research infrastructure and research projects’.

Conclusion: The level of evidence for the effectiveness of strategies to improve the use of research in policy making is low, and there remains a need for well-designed empirical studies that evaluate interventions. In the absence of strong evidence, efforts to enhance research use should be tailored to organisational needs and may incorporate capability development, improved access to targeted research summaries and syntheses, and greater interaction and collaboration with researchers.

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