Knowing your audience

National policy-makers speak out: Are researchers giving them what they need?

By 16 May 2012

The objective of this empirical study was to understand the perspectives and attitudes of policy-makers towards the use and impact of research in the health sector in low- and middle-income countries. The study used data from 83 semi-structured, in-depth interviews conducted with purposively selected policy-makers at the national level in Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Malawi, Oman and Singapore. The interviews were structured around an interview guide developed based on existing literature and in consultation with all six country investigators. Transcripts were processed using a thematic-analysis approach. Policy-makers interviewed for this study were unequivocal in their support for health research and the high value they attribute to it. However, they stated that there were structural and informal barriers to research contributing to policy processes, to the contribution research makes to knowledge generally, and to the use of research in health decision-making specifically. Major findings regarding barriers to evidence-based policy-making included poor communication and dissemination, lack of technical capacity in policy processes, as well as the influence of the political context. Policy-makers had a variable understanding of economic analysis, equity and burden of disease measures, and were vague in terms of their use in national decisions. Policy-maker recommendations regarding strategies for facilitating the uptake of research into policy included improving the technical capacity of policy-makers, better packaging of research results, use of social networks, and establishment of fora and clearinghouse functions to help assist in evidence-based policy-making.

KEY MESSAGES

  • Key barriers to evidence-based policy-making cited by policy-makers included poor communication and dissemination of research; lack of technical capacity in policy processes and their own inability to understand technical data; and the diverse influences of the political context.

  • Policy-makers had a variable understanding of economic analysis, notion of equity and burden of disease measures, and were vague in terms of their use in national decisions.

  • Policy-maker recommendations regarding strategies for facilitating the uptake of research into policy included improving the technical capacity of policy-makers, better packaging of research results, use of social networks and institutionalization of an evidence clearinghouse function in ministries of health.

National policy-makers speak out: are researchers giving them what they need? Oxford Journals, Health Policy and Planning, Volume 26, Issue 1, Pp. 73-82.