Evidence use in equity focused health impact assessment: a realist evaluation
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BACKGROUND: Equity-focused health impact assessment (EFHIA) can function as a framework and tool that supports users to collate data, information, and evidence related to health equity in order to identify and mitigate the impact of a current or proposed initiative on health inequities. Despite education efforts in both the clinical and public health settings, practitioners have found implementation and the use of evidence in completing equity focussed assessment tools to be challenging. METHODS: We conducted a realist evaluation of evidence use in EFHIA in three phases: 1) developing propositions informed by a literature scan, existing theoretical frameworks, and stakeholder engagement; 2) data collection at four case study sites using online surveys, semi-structured interviews, document analysis, and observation; and 3) a realist analysis and identification of context-mechanism-outcome patterns and demi-regularities. RESULTS: We identified limited use of academic evidence in EFHIA with two explanatory demi-regularities: 1) participants were unable to "identify with" academic sources, acknowledging that evidence based practice and use of academic literature was valued in their organization, but seen as less likely to provide answers needed for practice and 2) use of academic evidence was not associated with a perceived "positive return on investment" of participant energy and time. However, we found that knowledge brokering at the local site can facilitate evidence familiarity and manageability, increase user confidence in using evidence, and increase the likelihood of evidence use in future work. CONCLUSIONS: The findings of this study provide a realist perspective on evidence use in practice, specifically for EFHIA. These findings can inform ongoing development and refinement of various knowledge translation interventions, particularly for practitioners delivering front-line public health services.
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