Capturing lessons learned from evidence-to-policy initiatives through structured reflection
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BACKGROUND: Knowledge translation platforms (KTPs), which are partnerships between policymakers, stakeholders, and researchers, are being established in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to enhance evidence-informed health policymaking (EIHP). This study aims to gain a better understanding of the i) activities conducted by KTPs, ii) the way in which KTP leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders perceive these activities and their outputs, iii) facilitators that support KTP work and challenges, and the lessons learned for overcoming such challenges, and iv) factors that can help to ensure the sustainability of KTPs. METHODS: This paper triangulated qualitative data from: i) 17 semi-structured interviews with 47 key informants including KTP leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders from 10 KTPs; ii) document reviews, and iii) observation of deliberations at the International Forum on EIHP in LMICs held in Addis Ababa in August 2012. Purposive sampling was used and data were analyzed using thematic analysis. RESULTS: Deliberative dialogues informed by evidence briefs were identified as the most commendable tools by interviewees for enhancing EIHP. KTPs reported that they have contributed to increased awareness of the importance of EIHP and strengthened relationships among policymakers, stakeholders, and researchers. Support from policymakers and international funders facilitated KTP activities, while the lack of skilled human resources to conduct EIHP activities impeded KTPs. Ensuring the sustainability of EIHP initiatives after the end of funding was a major challenge for KTPs. KTPs reported that institutionalization within the government has helped to retain human resources and secure funding, whereas KTPs hosted by universities highlighted the advantage of autonomy from political interests. CONCLUSIONS: The establishment of KTPs is a promising development in supporting EIHP. Real-time lesson drawing from the experiences of KTPs can support improvements in the functioning of KTPs in the short term, while making the case for sustaining their work in the long term. Lessons learned can help to promote similar EIHP initiatives in other countries.
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