What types of evidence are useful for policy and practice?

A new paper provides recommendations

TDR news item
30 January 2017

A new paper provides some insights from practitioners, funders and policy-makers on what kind of evidence is useful to them. The qualitative study, partially funded by TDR, covered both research and evaluation. It resulted in 5 strategies offered for improvement.

Schistosomiasis Control Initiative in Ethiopia SIHI case study
Schistosomiasis Control Initiative in Ethiopia SIHI case study
Caption: WHO/TDR

The recommendations came out of 32 interviews among the 3 groups in low- and middle-income countries. They include: support the research efforts of emerging organizations; create links between practitioners and academia; alter the funding landscape for evidence generation; provide responsive technical education; and create accountability for funders, practitioners, and policy-makers.

The paper was commissioned by the Skoll Centre at Oxford, a key academic partner of the Social Innovation for Health Initiative (SIHI) that TDR initiated. It served as the basis of discussions held at the first SIHI gathering in Annecy, France last year, where members began to examine evidence on what works in social innovation in health, and explore how to best use this approach. Earlier, the group had identified 23 social innovation projects in 15 countries to be showcased and analysed for their effectiveness and generalizability.

The study authors write, “Practitioners asserted that funders and policy-makers are more moved by stories or personal connections than rigorous counterfactuals, but these assumptions were not necessarily borne out in decision-maker narratives. Though funders didn’t typically question or critically appraise the evidence of effect with which they were presented, policy-makers tended to be very explicit about the types of evidence they valued when considering interventions as candidates for scale.”

Few of the practitioners, funders, and policy-makers admitted to having given systematic consideration to potential unintended consequences of the programmes they implement, fund, or adopt. While a small number were open about harms, the vast majority do not have rigorous systems in place to track harm, and a number are in denial that causing harm is even possible.

The paper has been published in PLOS One, in the memory of Professor Pamela Hartigan, one of the authors who passed away before the submission of the final version of this manuscript. Contributors come from the Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention, the George Institute for Global Health in the Oxford Martin School, and the Saïd Business School – all at the University of Oxford, as well as the Global Health Sciences at the University of California San Francisco.

For more information, please contact:
Jamie Guth
TDR Communications Manager
Telephone: +41 79 441 2289
E-mail: guthj@who.int.

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