Applying knowledge translation tools to inform policy: the case of mental health in Lebanon
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BACKGROUND: Many reform efforts in health systems fall short because the use of research evidence to inform policy remains scarce. In Lebanon, one in four adults suffers from a mental illness, yet access to mental healthcare services in primary healthcare (PHC) settings is limited. Using an "integrated" knowledge framework to link research to action, this study examines the process of influencing the mental health agenda in Lebanon through the application of Knowledge Translation (KT) tools and the use of a KT Platform (KTP) as an intermediary between researchers and policymakers. METHODS: This study employed the following KT tools: 1) development of a policy brief to address the lack of access to mental health services in PHC centres, 2) semi-structured interviews with 10 policymakers and key informants, 3) convening of a national policy dialogue, 4) evaluation of the policy brief and dialogue, and 5) a post-dialogue survey. RESULTS: Findings from the key informant interviews and a comprehensive synthesis of evidence were used to develop a policy brief which defined the problem and presented three elements of a policy approach to address it. This policy brief was circulated to 24 participants prior to the dialogue to inform the discussion. The policy dialogue validated the evidence synthesized in the brief, whereby integrating mental health into PHC services was the element most supported by evidence as well as participants. The post-dialogue survey showed that, in the following 6 months, several implementation steps were taken by stakeholders, including establishing national taskforce, training PHC staff, and updating the national essential drug list to include psychiatric medications. Relationships among policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders were strengthened as they conducted their own workshops and meetings after the dialogue to further discuss implementation, and their awareness about and demand for KT tools increased. CONCLUSIONS: This case study showed that the use of KT tools in Lebanon to help generate evidence-informed programs is promising. This experience provided insights into the most helpful features of the tools. The role of the KTP in engaging stakeholders, particularly policymakers, prior to the dialogue and linking them with researchers was vital in securing their support for the KT process and uptake of the research evidence.
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