Can knowledge exchange support the implementation of a health-promoting schools approach? Perceived outcomes of knowledge exchange in the COMPASS study
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BACKGROUND: Despite the potential population-level impact of a health-promoting schools approach, schools face challenges in implementation, indicating a gap between school health research and practice. Knowledge exchange provides an opportunity to reduce this gap; however, there has been limited evaluation of these initiatives. This research explored researchers' and knowledge users' perceptions of outcomes associated with a knowledge exchange initiative within COMPASS, a longitudinal study of Canadian secondary students and schools. Schools received annual tailored summaries of their students' health behaviours and suggestions for action and were linked with knowledge brokers to support them in taking action to improve student health. METHODS: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with COMPASS researchers (n = 13), school staff (n = 13), and public health stakeholders (n = 4) to explore their experiences with COMPASS knowledge exchange. Key issues included how knowledge users used school-specific findings, perceived outcomes of knowledge exchange, and suggestions for change. RESULTS: Outcomes for both knowledge users and researchers were identified; interestingly, knowledge users attributed more outcomes to using school-specific findings than knowledge brokering. School and public health participants indicated school-specific findings informed their programming and planning. Importantly, knowledge exchange provided a platform for partnerships between researchers, schools, and public health units. Knowledge brokering allowed researchers to gain feedback from knowledge users to enhance the study and a better understanding of the school environment. Interestingly, COMPASS knowledge exchange outcomes aligned with Samdal and Rowling's eight theory-driven implementation components for health-promoting schools. Hence, knowledge exchange may provide a mechanism to help schools implement a health-promoting schools approach. CONCLUSIONS: This research contributes to the limited literature regarding outcomes of knowledge brokering in public health and knowledge exchange in school health research. However, since not all schools engaged in knowledge brokering, and not all schools that engaged discussed these outcomes, further research is needed to determine the amount of engagement required for change and examine the process of COMPASS knowledge brokering to consider how to increase school engagement.
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