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Translating research into policy and practice in developing countries: a case study of magnesium sulphate for pre-eclampsia

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      BackgroundThe evidence base for improving reproductive health continues to grow. However, concerns remain that the translation of this evidence into appropriate policies is partial and slow. Little is known about the factors affecting the use of evidence by policy makers and clinicians, particularly in developing countries. The objective of this study was to examine the factors that might affect the translation of randomised controlled trial (RCT) findings into policies and practice in developing countries.MethodsThe recent publication of an important RCT on the use of magnesium sulphate to treat pre-eclampsia provided an opportunity to explore how research findings might be translated into policy. A range of research methods, including a survey, group interview and observations with RCT collaborators and a survey of WHO drug information officers, regulatory officials and obstetricians in 12 countries, were undertaken to identify barriers and facilitators to knowledge translation.ResultsIt proved difficult to obtain reliable data regarding the availability and use of commonly used drugs in many countries. The perceived barriers to implementing RCT findings regarding the use of magnesium sulphate for pre-eclampsia include drug licensing and availability; inadequate and poorly implemented clinical guidelines; and lack of political support for policy change. However, there were significant regional and national differences in the importance of specific barriers.ConclusionThe policy changes needed to ensure widespread availability and use of magnesium sulphate are variable and complex. Difficulties in obtaining information on availability and use are combined with the wide range of barriers across settings, including a lack of support from policy makers. This makes it difficult to envisage any single intervention strategy that might be used to promote the uptake of research findings on magnesium sulphate into policy across the study settings. The publication of important trials may therefore not have the impacts on health care that researchers hope for.

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      The Many Meanings of Research Utilization

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        Health policy-makers' perceptions of their use of evidence: a systematic review.

        The empirical basis for theories and common wisdom regarding how to improve appropriate use of research evidence in policy decisions is unclear. One source of empirical evidence is interview studies with policy-makers. The aim of this systematic review was to summarise the evidence from interview studies of facilitators of, and barriers to, the use of research evidence by health policy-makers. We searched multiple databases, including Medline, Embase, Sociofile, PsychLit, PAIS, IBSS, IPSA and HealthStar in June 2000, hand-searched key journals and personally contacted investigators. We included interview studies with health policy-makers that covered their perceptions of the use of research evidence in health policy decisions at a national, regional or organisational level. Two reviewers independently assessed the relevance of retrieved articles, described the methods of included studies and extracted data that were summarised in tables and analysed qualitatively. We identified 24 studies that met our inclusion criteria. These studies included a total of 2041 interviews with health policy-makers. Assessments of the use of evidence were largely descriptive and qualitative, focusing on hypothetical scenarios or retrospective perceptions of the use of evidence in relation to specific cases. Perceived facilitators of, and barriers to, the use of evidence varied. The most commonly reported facilitators were personal contact (13/24), timely relevance (13/24), and the inclusion of summaries with policy recommendations (11/24). The most commonly reported barriers were absence of personal contact (11/24), lack of timeliness or relevance of research (9/24), mutual mistrust (8/24) and power and budget struggles (7/24). Interview studies with health policy-makers provide only limited support for commonly held beliefs about facilitators of, and barriers to, their use of evidence, and raise questions about commonsense proposals for improving the use of research for policy decisions. Two-way personal communication, the most common suggestion, may improve the appropriate use of research evidence, but it might also promote selective (inappropriate) use of research evidence.
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          Changing provider behavior: an overview of systematic reviews of interventions.

          Increasing recognition of the failure to translate research findings into practice has led to greater awareness of the importance of using active dissemination and implementation strategies. Although there is a growing body of research evidence about the effectiveness of different strategies, this is not easily accessible to policy makers and professionals. To identify, appraise, and synthesize systematic reviews of professional educational or quality assurance interventions to improve quality of care. An overview was made of systematic reviews of professional behavior change interventions published between 1966 and 1998. Forty-one reviews were identified covering a wide range of interventions and behaviors. In general, passive approaches are generally ineffective and unlikely to result in behavior change. Most other interventions are effective under some circumstances; none are effective under all circumstances. Promising approaches include educational outreach (for prescribing) and reminders. Multifaceted interventions targeting different barriers to change are more likely to be effective than single interventions. Although the current evidence base is incomplete, it provides valuable insights into the likely effectiveness of different interventions. Future quality improvement or educational activities should be informed by the findings of systematic reviews of professional behavior change interventions.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Norwegian Knowledge Centre for Health Services, Box 7004 St. Olavs Plass, N-0130 Oslo, Norway
            [2 ]Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK
            [3 ]Health Systems Research Unit, Medical Research Council of South Africa, South Africa
            [4 ]Directorate for Health and Social Affairs, Postbox 7000 St. Olavs plass, N-0130 Oslo, Norway
            [5 ]Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, 15 Hyde Terrace, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
            [6 ]Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, University of Toronto, G1 06, 2075, Bayview Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada M4N 3M5
            BMC Health Serv Res
            BMC Health Services Research
            BioMed Central (London )
            1 November 2005
            : 5
            : 68
            Copyright © 2005 Aaserud et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

            Research Article

            Health & Social care


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