I think it is a bit difficult to give a standard definition to effective communication.
I want to share my experience in communicating research findings effectively. I believe that effective communication of research findings is a process starting from the research planning to the final results dissemination. I had a great experience in research findings communication when I was working with M.A.SANTE in Cameroon on the sustainable cholera surveillance research project. I can say that the communication with decision makers was effective because the findings of the research was used to revise national cholera contingency plan, organize OCV vaccination campaigns in cholera hotspots, and to integrate environmental cholera surveillance into the national surveillance system.
The success of this particular case could be attributed to multiple factors but essentially the following:
1. Policymakers were engaged at the planning stage of the study. The researcher’s research question sometimes is not exactly the same question the policy makers are seeking answers. Therefore, engaging the health authorities, policy makers and other stake holders in the planning stage of the research would enable us (researchers) to know and integrate their concerns and questions on the subject matter. This early engagement stage does not only help to integrate their point of view but equally create some sort of expectations and anxiousness in them.
2. I was designated by our team to represent the project team at the national surveillance meeting in the MoH (held every week). This was a very good opportunity for the health authorities to remain in touch with the research team, keep everyone updated on the study progress.
3. Results dissemination seminars were organized 2 times per year, which was participated by policymakers, technical departments of the MoH, research team, and other partners. In this meeting, points discussed included research progress, key study findings, and recommendations. Sometimes recommendation to include certain aspects in the study, which would lead to amendment of the protocol.
4. Because the study team was constantly in contact with the health authorities, the team was always invited by the MoH anytime a seminar was organized on cholera or emergency response. For instance, the revision of national cholera contingency plan. These were opportunity for the team to give contributions and advocate for the findings of this study to be included in the national guidelines when applicable.
In summary, effective communication of research findings with policymakers is a continues process done in a participatory approach. This approach gives the chance to every stakeholder to express their needs in terms of research question and to formulate the recommendation from the study together. Just to share this experience because I think it might be useful.
Martin N. Yakum
CHIFA profile: Yakum Martin Ndinakie is an Epidemiologist at M.A.SANTE in Cameroon. Professional interests: Health research in general and infectious diseases of poverty in particular. martinyakum AT gmail.com