Decision-makers in public health can be confronted with a huge volume of data, evidence, reviews and summaries – from local and national sources. There is also an acknowledged gap between evidence and policy in public health.
In a recent blog on the EPPI centre website CLAHRC researchers Dylan Kneale and Antonio Rojas-García reflect on their work exploring the use of evidence in local public health decision-making – and raise the question – How much research is being wasted because it is not generalisable in local settings?
While reduced resources make judicious use of evidence more important than ever when deciding how and where to apply resources, researchers also need to understand, and better communicate, the generalisability of their research evidence to decision-makers working locally.
We have been reaching out to colleagues in local authorities and public health departments to highlight the value of research evidence in improving health and well being among local populations. The CLAHRC is forging useful links with our partners in local councils, bridging the gap between research and the front line.
Local authorities are a key audience for the CLAHRC as they are responsible for public health in their area. Public health includes prevention of illness and disease, sexual health and smoking cessation.
CLAHRC partners Islington and Camden Councils run lunchtime learning sessions for staff as part of their Using Data Better initiative. They invite speakers from various sectors to present the potential for data to improve health and health services for local residents. The boroughs have joined forces to deliver public health, and have a team of data analysts at work – identifying issues that have a negative effect on people’s health, and planning to deal with those issues.
In October Dr Chiara De Poli (below left) presented to public health staff and analysts in the two Councils. Chiara was joined by the CLAHRC’s Professor Gwyn Bevan and health economist Dr Elena Pizzo, presenting evidence of the limited impact of current policy options on the projected diabetes ‘epidemic’ in Islington, which stimulated a lively discussion about what Islington might do to tackle this.
Chiara’s work is part of a wider CLAHRC study, led by Professor Bevan, investigating the design of research and decision support processes to ensure the utility of research outputs. We are making efforts to make our research more “user friendly” and accessible to colleagues in the NHS and local government so they can use it in decision-making around planning and commissioning services and interventions for the populations they serve.
There was learning on both sides – our researchers got an insight into the challenges faced by staff on the front line and an appreciation of the type of data local authorities collect and analyse to improve health and well-being. We offered projections on the likely impact on diabetes prevention of current policies adopted by local authorities.
Feedback from our audience was extremely positive and we hope this is the start of a fruitful collaboration between the CLAHRC and the Public health teams within Islington and Camden.
“Once again, thanks for delivering a wonderful presentation – many of us were fascinated by your progress, and it’s no surprise that our head of dept. is now keen to collaborate further”
Mustafa Kamara, Intelligence & Information Analyst, Camden and Islington Public Health