Preterm birth: the role of knowledge transfer and exchange
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BACKGROUND: Preterm birth (PTB) is the leading cause of death in children under age five. Healthcare policy and other decision-making relevant to PTB may rely on obsolete, incomplete or inapplicable research evidence, leading to worsened outcomes. Appropriate knowledge transfer and exchange (KTE) strategies are an important component of efforts to reduce the global PTB burden. We sought to develop a 'landscape' analysis of KTE strategies currently used in PTB and related contexts, and to make recommendations for optimising programmatic implementation and for future research. METHODS: In the University of California, San Francisco's Preterm Birth Initiative, we convened a multidisciplinary working group and examined KTE frameworks. After selecting a widely-used, adaptable, theoretically-strong framework we reviewed the literature to identify evidence-based KTE strategies. We analysed KTE approaches focusing on key PTB stakeholders (individuals, families and communities, healthcare providers and policymakers). Guided by the framework, we articulated KTE approaches that would likely improve PTB outcomes. We further applied the KTE framework in developing recommendations. RESULTS: We selected the Linking Research to Action framework. Searches identified 19 systematic reviews, including two 'reviews of reviews'. Twelve reviews provided evidence for KTE strategies in the context of maternal, neonatal and child health, though not PTB specifically; seven reviews provided 'cross-cutting' evidence that could likely be generalised to PTB contexts. For individuals, families and communities, potentially effective KTE strategies include community-based approaches, 'decision aids', regular discussions with providers and other strategies. For providers, KTE outcomes may be improved through local opinion leaders, electronic reminders, multifaceted strategies and other approaches. Policy decisions relevant to PTB may best be informed through the use of evidence briefs, deliberative dialogues, the SUPPORT tools for evidence-informed policymaking and other strategies. Our recommendations for research addressed knowledge gaps in regard to partner engagement, applicability and context, implementation strategy research, monitoring and evaluation, and infrastructure for sustainable KTE efforts. CONCLUSIONS: Evidence-based KTE, using strategies appropriate to each stakeholder group, is essential to any effort to improve health at the population level. PTB stakeholders should be fully engaged in KTE and programme planning from its earliest stages, and ideally before planning begins.
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