Communicating health research (22) Q1. What do we mean by ˜Effective communication of health research? (5) How do we measure it?

7 September, 2022

Dear HIFA colleagues,

For the purposes of our discussion, the HIFA working group on Effective research communication proposes the following definition:

"Effective communication: From a researcher point of view, this means that their research is considered by policymakers where appropriate. This implies that it is visible, accessible, clear and readily understandable, that it is seen by policymakers as relevant and reliable, and that it is in a format that meets the perceived needs of policymakers."

It can be argued there are various levels of effective communication to policymakers (PMs):

1. PM is aware of the research (whether directly or indirectly)

2. PM understands the key findings of the research

3. PM has confidence in the research

4. PM includes the research as part of their decision making process

5. There is a demonstrable link (direct or indirect) between the research and subsequent policy

6. The policy is implemented and has an impact on health outcomes.

Any of the above may be facilitated/affected by several types of actor: advisers, policy brief writers, media, journalists, civil society organisations, not to mention the original researchers themselves.

Note that the above is a representation from the perspective of a researcher who wants to communicate *their* research.

A definition of 'effective communication' from a public health perspective would arguably be different. For example, many of us would say that optimal policymaking should not be based on which research team is the most effective communicator. By definition, this promotes biased policymaking. We would argue that effective communication is that which supports evidence-informed policymaking, which WHO describes as ensuring that 'the best available research evidence is used to inform decision-making... characterized by systematic and transparent access to and appraisal of evidence as an input into the policy-making process.'

That said, our discussion is looking primarily from a researcher perspective, noting that much relevant research does not even come to the attention of policymakers or their advisers, let alone be considered systematically (or otherwise) in policymaking.

This leads us to the question: How might we *measure* the effectiveness of health research communication? I look forward to your comments.

Best wishes, Neil

Joint Coordinator, HIFA Communicating health research

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health movement (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. HIFA brings stakeholders together to accelerate progress towards universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK based non-profit in official relations with the World Health Organization.

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