Evidence-informed health policy 2 – Survey of organizations that support the use of research evidence
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BACKGROUND: Previous surveys of organizations that support the development of evidence-informed health policies have focused on organizations that produce clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) or undertake health technology assessments (HTAs). Only rarely have surveys focused at least in part on units that directly support the use of research evidence in developing health policy on an international, national, and state or provincial level (i.e., government support units, or GSUs) that are in some way successful or innovative or that support the use of research evidence in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). METHODS: We drew on many people and organizations around the world, including our project reference group, to generate a list of organizations to survey. We modified a questionnaire that had been developed originally by the Appraisal of Guidelines, Research and Evaluation in Europe (AGREE) collaboration and adapted one version of the questionnaire for organizations producing CPGs and HTAs, and another for GSUs. We sent the questionnaire by email to 176 organizations and followed up periodically with non-responders by email and telephone. RESULTS: We received completed questionnaires from 152 (86%) organizations. More than one-half of the organizations (and particularly HTA agencies) reported that examples from other countries were helpful in establishing their organization. A higher proportion of GSUs than CPG- or HTA-producing organizations involved target users in the selection of topics or the services undertaken. Most organizations have few (five or fewer) full-time equivalent (FTE) staff. More than four-fifths of organizations reported providing panels with or using systematic reviews. GSUs tended to use a wide variety of explicit valuation processes for the research evidence, but none with the frequency that organizations producing CPGs, HTAs, or both prioritized evidence by its quality. Between one-half and two-thirds of organizations do not collect data systematically about uptake, and roughly the same proportions do not systematically evaluate their usefulness or impact in other ways. CONCLUSION: The findings from our survey, the most broadly based of its kind, both extend or clarify the applicability of the messages arising from previous surveys and related documentary analyses, such as how the 'principles of evidence-based medicine dominate current guideline programs' and the importance of collaborating with other organizations. The survey also provides a description of the history, structure, processes, outputs, and perceived strengths and weaknesses of existing organizations from which those establishing or leading similar organizations can draw.
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