Communicating health research (73) Q2. What are the different approaches? (17)

25 September, 2022

We have previously noted the paper by HIFA working group members Rob Terry, Tanja Kuchenmuller and colleagues:

CITATION: Assessing the impact of knowledge communication and dissemination strategies targeted at health policy-makers and managers: an overview of systematic reviews. Evelina Chapman et al. Health Research Policy and Systems volume 19, Article number: 140 (2021)

The main conclusion is: 'There is limited evidence regarding the effectiveness of interventions targeting health managers and policy-makers, as well as the mechanisms required for achieving impact.'

What does this tell us, if anything, about the wide variety of communication approaches that have been reported by HIFA members during this discussion?

In one sense, given what we have learned during the past 3 weeks, the lack of demonstrable effectiveness is not surpising. First, we see that research communication is a complex, non-linear process. Second, the definition of 'effective communication' is highly variable. Third, we note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to research communication - the strategy needs to reflect the specific objectives of the commuication, and these perceived objectives may vary from one perspective to another. Fourth, there is no agreed indicator or measure of effectiveness - it varies case by case.

Another finding of this study is: 'Regarding dissemination strategies, interventions that aimed at improving only the reach of evidence did not have an impact on its use in decisions, while interventions aimed at enhancing users’ ability to use and apply evidence had a positive effect on decision-making processes.' I look forward to hear more about this from Rob and Tanja.

Looking again at our discussion over the past 3 weeks, this second finding seems to align with our emerging narrative. Namely, we started with a simplistic view that a researcher/research team has a finding that they want to communicate *to* policymakers, and increasingly we note the importance of interaction *with* policymakers and other stakeholders throughout the research cycle. And when we look at research communication from a public health perspective rather than a researcher perspective, we note the importance of collaboration and research synthesis rather than competition and direct impact of single studies.

In terms of supporting research communication in the future, Mark Storey (USA) suggested: "It would be useful to develop a toolkit (describing the different types of interventions) together with a number of brief case studies providing examples of different approaches used at many of the different operational levels and local settings in which changes have successfully (or even unsuccessfully) been promoted." Is anyone aware of previous work in this area? What already exists in terms of guidance for researchers to increase the visibility and impact of their work?

Looking forward to your continuing contributions.

Meanwhile I take note of Massimo's point that some of our discussion is academic. I encourage everyone to share an example of research from your own lived experience. Stories and anecdotes are especially welcome. Email:

Best wishes, Neil

Joint Coordinator, HIFA Communicating health research

Let's build a future where every person has access to reliable healthcare information and is protected from misinformation - Join HIFA:

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