Communicating health research (66) Have *you* ever published a research paper? What happened?

24 September, 2022

Dear HIFA colleagues, and especially the many health researchers among us,

It has been estimated that 'New medical articles are appearing at a rate of at least one every 26 seconds, and if a physician were to read every medical journal published they would need to read 5000 articles per day' []. And yet we know very little (almost nothing?) about the impact (or lack of it) of all this research on health policymakers.

Have *you* ever published a research paper (or several - some researchers publish more than one every week!)? Did you want your paper to make a difference? And *did* it make a difference - or was it ignored?

Has your work led to a change in policy, whether Policy (with a big P, as in national/subnational policy) or policy with a small p (eg project/programme implementation)? What were the key ingredients to make this happen in terms of research communication? What was the role of your research team? What was the role of your institution?

Here's an example from HIFA: The last research paper HIFA published was a systematic review in 2020 'How primary healthcare workers obtain information for safe prescribing in LMICs' with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Nagasaki University.

The findings confirmed a lack of up-to-date and relevant information on medicines in low and lower middle-income settings. We concluded that 'Up-to-date medicine information and the means of making it accessible and acceptable to prescribers at the point of care must accompany the expanding access to medicines if those seeking medical care are to benefit. Such information needs to go beyond information about individual medicines, to include guidance on the selection of medicines.' Despite advocacy on these issues since 2013 led by the HIFA project on Information for Prescribers and Users of Medicines, I regret to say there has been no demonstrable impact on political and/or financial commitment to reliable information on medicines.

My feeling is that individual research papers, whether primary or secondary, are unlikely to result in a change of policy. At best they can underpin wider advocacy efforts, driven by all the available evidence and only exceptionally by a single study.

What has been your experience?

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. Twitter: @hifa_org neil AT