Communicating health research (136) Outputs and next steps (2) TDR-HIFA news item

17 March, 2023

Dear HIFA colleagues,

Further to my last message on this topic - - I'm delighted to say that TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases at WHO, has published a news release about our HIFA forum discussions on Communicating health research. The text is below and you can read it online here:


Bridging the gap between researchers and policy-makers

11 March 2023 News release Reading time: 3 min (739 words)

What are the most impactful methods for researchers to communicate their findings to policy-makers so that the research is translated to action? How can research be better packaged and communicated, using formats such as policy briefs, academic papers, videos, social media, infographics and newsletters? How do we define and measure impact?

These were the questions explored in a recent online discussion, hosted by Health Information for All (HIFA) and supported by TDR, with contributions from 30 participants located in 20 countries.

TDR supports various initiatives to promote the use of research evidence to inform health policies and practice. Effective communication of research findings is a critical step to achieve such outcomes. Recently, TDR and the partners of the Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative (SORT IT) developed a new training module on research communication to bridge the gap between researchers and decision-makers.

During the online discussion hosted by HIFA, participants agreed that more evidence is needed to understand when communication has been effective. This is also a conclusion of a recent study funded by TDR. There was a consensus that the starting point for effective communication is for all research to be freely accessible. Most importantly, findings should be communicated in ways that are clear and easy to understand. The content also needs to be tailored to the target audience and be available in the most appropriate local language.

Contributors agreed that there is no single indicator of effectiveness. Effectiveness should be measured on a case-by-case basis, against agreed communication objectives. Outcomes are more important than outputs. Whilst publishing research papers in high-quality peer-reviewed journals is essential to provide credibility for the findings it is not enough to assume these will reach decision-makers or they will be read. Therefore, the development of evidence briefs, short plain-language summaries, are needed.

Ama Fenny, a health economist and Senior Research Fellow with the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economics Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana, shared her experience on communicating findings from her research.

‘’What made the impact was making the information less technical and more accessible to those who needed it the most policy-makers,” Fenny said. “This required three basic steps: stating the facts (results), stating the implications (effect on individuals, families, businesses and economy) and finally the call to action (advocating for policy change to curb productivity loss).”

The importance of communicating with key stakeholders early in the research process was also highlighted by Martin Ndinakie Yakum, an epidemiologist at M.A.SANTE, a non-profit health research association in Cameroon.

“Engaging the health authorities, policy-makers and other stakeholders in the planning stage of the research would enable us to know and integrate their concerns and questions on the subject matter,” Yakum said. “This early engagement not only helps to integrate their point of view but equally create some sort of expectations in them.”

This approach has resulted in the use of the research findings to revise a national cholera contingency plan, to organize vaccination campaigns in cholera hotspots and to integrate environmental cholera surveillance into the national surveillance system, Yakum said.

A number of questions remain unanswered for TDR to explore as part of its knowledge management activities. These include:

Informing versus persuading: Effective research communication is primarily about providing the information policy-makers need to make specific decisions. In what circumstances is it also about persuading policy-makers to make specific decisions?

Different methods: What are the pros and cons of different methods (such as academic publications, policy briefs, interactions with policy-makers, press releases, social media, podcasts, television and radio)?

Case studies: What other case studies can we identify that demonstrate effective and ineffective research communication of primary and secondary research?

Guidance and training: What practical guidance exists on effective communication of health research? How can researchers be better trained in communicating their findings?

TDR will be seeking to explore these areas further in its new strategy, which will be launched in 2024.

HIFA is a global health initiative working to save lives and reduce suffering by improving the availability and use of reliable healthcare information. HIFA's unique contribution is to convene all stakeholders in solidarity to address this complex challenge (discussions are available in: English, French, Portuguese and Spanish). It is free to join and take part in the numerous, moderated thematic conversations.

TDR has worked with HIFA on three previous online projects exploring evidence-informed policy and practice.

For more information, contact Dr Rob Terry, TDR Manager of Research Policy. terryr AT


Our thanks to the many HIFA volunteers who helped make this project a success:

HIFA is grateful for TDR's support for this project. If *your* organisation would like to consider leveraging the collective wisdom and experience of the HIFA community to explore global health issues, particularly in relation to the availability and use of reliable healthcare inforamtion, please contact me to discuss options:

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: