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Title: Translating research into policy: lessons learned from eclampsia treatment and malaria control in three southern African countries
Authors: Woelk, Godfrey
Daniels, Karen
Cliff, Julie
Lewin, Simon
Sevene, Esperança
Fernandes, Benedita
Mariano, Alda
Matinhure, Sheillah
Oxman, Andrew D.
Lavis, John N.
Lundborg, Cecilia Stålsby
Keywords: Eclampsia treatment
Malaria control
Public health
Issue Date: 30-Dec-2009
Publisher: BioMed Central
Citation: Woelk G, Daniels K, Cliff J, Lewin S, Sevene E, Fernandes B, Mariano A, Matinhure S, Oxman AD, Lavis JN, Lundborg CS. Translating research into policy: lessons learned from eclampsia treatment and malaria control in three southern African countries. Health Res Policy Syst. 2009 Dec 30;7:31. doi: 10.1186/1478-4505-7-31. PMID: 20042117; PMCID: PMC2809043.
Abstract: Little is known about the process of knowledge translation in low- and middle- income countries. We studied policymaking processes in Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe to understand the factors affecting the use of research evidence in national policy development, with a particular focus on the findings from randomized control trials (RCTs). We examined two cases: the use of magnesium sulphate (MgSO 4 ) in the treatment of eclampsia in pregnancy (a clinical case); and the use of insecticide treated bed nets and indoor residual household spraying for malaria vector control (a public health case). Methods: We used a qualitative case-study methodology to explore the policy making process. We carried out key informants interviews with a range of research and policy stakeholders in each country, reviewed documents and developed timelines of key events. Using an iterative approach, we undertook a thematic analysis of the data. Findings: Prior experience of particular interventions, local champions, stakeholders and international networks, and the involvement of researchers in policy development were important in knowledge translation for both case studies. Key differences across the two case studies included the nature of the evidence, with clear evidence of efficacy for MgSO 4 and ongoing debate regarding the efficacy of bed nets compared with spraying; local researcher involvement in international evidence production, which was stronger for MgSO 4 than for malaria vector control; and a long- standing culture of evidence-based health care within obstetrics. Other differences were the importance of bureaucratic processes for clinical regulatory approval of MgSO 4 , and regionalnetworks and political interests for malaria control. In contrast to treatment policies for eclampsia, a diverse group of stakeholders with varied interests, differing in their use and interpretation of evidence, was involved in malaria policy decisions in the three countries. Conclusion: Translating research knowledge into policy is a complex and context sensitive process. Researchers aiming to enhance knowledge translation need to be aware of factors influencing the demand for different types of research; interact and work closely with key policy stakeholders, networks and local champions; and acknowledge the roles of important interest groups.
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