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      Tools to support evidence-informed public health decision making

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          Abstract

          Background

          Public health professionals are increasingly expected to engage in evidence-informed decision making to inform practice and policy decisions. Evidence-informed decision making involves the use of research evidence along with expertise, existing public health resources, knowledge about community health issues, the local context and community, and the political climate. The National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools has identified a seven step process for evidence-informed decision making. Tools have been developed to support public health professionals as they work through each of these steps. This paper provides an overview of tools used in three Canadian public health departments involved in a study to develop capacity for evidence-informed decision making.

          Methods

          As part of a knowledge translation and exchange intervention, a Knowledge Broker worked with public health professionals to identify and apply tools for use with each of the steps of evidence-informed decision making. The Knowledge Broker maintained a reflective journal and interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of decision makers and public health professionals. This paper presents qualitative analysis of the perceived usefulness and usability of the tools.

          Results

          Tools were used in the health departments to assist in: question identification and clarification; searching for the best available research evidence; assessing the research evidence for quality through critical appraisal; deciphering the ‘actionable message(s)’ from the research evidence; tailoring messages to the local context to ensure their relevance and suitability; deciding whether and planning how to implement research evidence in the local context; and evaluating the effectiveness of implementation efforts. Decision makers provided descriptions of how the tools were used within the health departments and made suggestions for improvement. Overall, the tools were perceived as valuable for advancing and sustaining evidence-informed decision making.

          Conclusion

          Tools are available to support the process of evidence-informed decision making among public health professionals. The usability and usefulness of these tools for advancing and sustaining evidence-informed decision making are discussed, including recommendations for the tools’ application in other public health settings beyond this study. Knowledge and awareness of these tools may assist other health professionals in their efforts to implement evidence-informed practice.

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          Most cited references 48

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          Development of AMSTAR: a measurement tool to assess the methodological quality of systematic reviews

          Background Our objective was to develop an instrument to assess the methodological quality of systematic reviews, building upon previous tools, empirical evidence and expert consensus. Methods A 37-item assessment tool was formed by combining 1) the enhanced Overview Quality Assessment Questionnaire (OQAQ), 2) a checklist created by Sacks, and 3) three additional items recently judged to be of methodological importance. This tool was applied to 99 paper-based and 52 electronic systematic reviews. Exploratory factor analysis was used to identify underlying components. The results were considered by methodological experts using a nominal group technique aimed at item reduction and design of an assessment tool with face and content validity. Results The factor analysis identified 11 components. From each component, one item was selected by the nominal group. The resulting instrument was judged to have face and content validity. Conclusion A measurement tool for the 'assessment of multiple systematic reviews' (AMSTAR) was developed. The tool consists of 11 items and has good face and content validity for measuring the methodological quality of systematic reviews. Additional studies are needed with a focus on the reproducibility and construct validity of AMSTAR, before strong recommendations can be made on its use.
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            Knowledge translation of research findings

            Background One of the most consistent findings from clinical and health services research is the failure to translate research into practice and policy. As a result of these evidence-practice and policy gaps, patients fail to benefit optimally from advances in healthcare and are exposed to unnecessary risks of iatrogenic harms, and healthcare systems are exposed to unnecessary expenditure resulting in significant opportunity costs. Over the last decade, there has been increasing international policy and research attention on how to reduce the evidence-practice and policy gap. In this paper, we summarise the current concepts and evidence to guide knowledge translation activities, defined as T2 research (the translation of new clinical knowledge into improved health). We structure the article around five key questions: what should be transferred; to whom should research knowledge be transferred; by whom should research knowledge be transferred; how should research knowledge be transferred; and, with what effect should research knowledge be transferred? Discussion We suggest that the basic unit of knowledge translation should usually be up-to-date systematic reviews or other syntheses of research findings. Knowledge translators need to identify the key messages for different target audiences and to fashion these in language and knowledge translation products that are easily assimilated by different audiences. The relative importance of knowledge translation to different target audiences will vary by the type of research and appropriate endpoints of knowledge translation may vary across different stakeholder groups. There are a large number of planned knowledge translation models, derived from different disciplinary, contextual (i.e., setting), and target audience viewpoints. Most of these suggest that planned knowledge translation for healthcare professionals and consumers is more likely to be successful if the choice of knowledge translation strategy is informed by an assessment of the likely barriers and facilitators. Although our evidence on the likely effectiveness of different strategies to overcome specific barriers remains incomplete, there is a range of informative systematic reviews of interventions aimed at healthcare professionals and consumers (i.e., patients, family members, and informal carers) and of factors important to research use by policy makers. Summary There is a substantial (if incomplete) evidence base to guide choice of knowledge translation activities targeting healthcare professionals and consumers. The evidence base on the effects of different knowledge translation approaches targeting healthcare policy makers and senior managers is much weaker but there are a profusion of innovative approaches that warrant further evaluation.
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              AGREE II: advancing guideline development, reporting and evaluation in health care.

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                Author and article information

                Affiliations
                [1 ]School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, 1200 Main St. W, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
                [2 ]Health Promotion, Chronic Disease & Injury Prevention, Public Health Ontario, 480 University Avenue, Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
                Contributors
                Journal
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central
                1471-2458
                2014
                18 July 2014
                : 14
                : 728
                1471-2458-14-728
                10.1186/1471-2458-14-728
                4223550
                25034534
                Copyright © 2014 Yost et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Categories
                Research Article

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