Objective: To determine the extent to which systematic reviews of public health interventions influenced public health decisions and which factors were associated with influencing these decisions.
Methods: This cross-sectional follow-up survey evaluated the use of five systematic reviews in public health decision making. Independent variables included characteristics of the innovation, organization, environment, and individual. Primary data were collected using a telephone survey and a self-administered organizational demographics questionnaire. Public health decision makers in all 41 public health units in Ontario were invited to participate in the study. Multiple linear regression analyses on the five program decisions were conducted.
Results: The systematic reviews were perceived as having the greatest amount of influence on decisions related to program justification and program planning, and the least influence on program evaluation decisions. The greater the perception that one's organization valued the use of research evidence for decision making and that ongoing training in the critical appraisal of research literature was provided, the greater the perception of the influence the systematic review had on public health decisions.
Conclusions: Organizational characteristics are important predictors of the use of systematic reviews in public health decision making. Future dissemination strategies need to promote the value of using systematic reviews for program decision making as well as promote ongoing training in critical appraisal among intended users in Ontario.