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Knowing What Works. Doing What Works: An Introduction to the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools

Contents

I Introduction
II What is evidence-informed public health?
III Why implement EIPH?
IV How can the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools (NCCMT) help you implement EIPH?
V More about the NCCMT

- by Jeannie Mackintosh, Communication Coordinator, National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools

I Introduction

Decisions are made every day that affect the health of our target populations – decisions about practices, policies and programs. While they are all made with good intentions, only some of those decisions will achieve their objectives. Maximizing the results of public health decisions can lead to improved health outcomes for both individuals and communities as a whole. The National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools (NCCMT) can help you use evidence to make more effective decisions regarding the work you do in public health.

II What is evidence-informed public health?

Evidence-informed public health (EIPH) is the process of distilling and disseminating the best available evidence, and using that evidence to inform and improve public health policy and practice. Put simply, it means finding, using, and sharing what works in public health.

It is widely accepted that public health programming and policy decisions should not be based on research findings alone. By considering evidence from a range of sources, we can make decisions that result in programs and actions that are both effective and appropriate for our communities and target populations.

The process of evidence-informed public health consists of seven essential steps that help decision-makers consider the best available research evidence for the issue at hand:

  1. DEFINE: Clearly define the question or problem.
  2. SEARCH: Efficiently search for research evidence.
  3. APPRAISE: Critically and efficiently appraise the research methods.
  4. SYNTHESIZE: Interpret information; understand how to prioritize conflicting results.
  5. ADAPT: Adapt the information to the local community.
  6. IMPLEMENT: Decide whether (and plan how) to implement the change in practice or policy.
  7. EVALUATE: Assess the effectiveness of the change in practice or policy.

III Why implement EIPH?

EIPH integrates the best available research evidence into decisions about practice and policy development. EIPH can conserve scarce resources and can result in better health outcomes for individuals and communities. Informed decision-makers can be confident when the initiatives under consideration are based on evidence. They know they will be implementing interventions that work and avoiding those that do not.

Ultimately, a decision-maker’s public health expertise helps to integrate all relevant sources of evidence into a conclusion or recommendation. See our fact sheet for more details: A Model for Evidence-Informed Decision Making in Public Health (available at http://www.nccmt.ca/pubs/FactSheet_EIDM_EN_WEB.pdf.)

IV How can the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools (NCCMT) help you implement EIPH?

NCCMT is committed to supporting and encouraging EIPH. Our DialoguePH network gives you a virtual place to connect with other practitioners about EIPH as well as other issues. In addition to publications and presentations about EIPH, our efforts include workshops, a dedicated website section, and our “EIPH wheel.”

DialoguePH

Our knowledge translation network, lets you connect with colleagues from down the hall and across the country. The network’s discussion forum is a great place to find out more about EIPH. Find out how other network members, experts, and public health professionals incorporate evidence into their decisions. What methods and tools have they tried? Which ones do they recommend? The discussion forum is hosted by DialoguePH and moderated by NCCMT’s knowledge broker, Pamela Forsyth (available at http://www.nccmt.ca/networking/dialogueph-eng.html)

NCCMT offers interactive EIPH workshops where participants practise finding and applying the best available research evidence in program planning and revision. So far, facilitators from NCCMT have presented the popular EIPH workshops to over 500 people across Canada, with more workshops planned in the coming months. A participant from Kingston, Ontario noted he “would encourage employees who have not attended to attend in the future.”

Of course, budget and time constraints in public health today mean that not everyone who wants to attend a workshop in person can do so. To address this very real problem, NCCMT has recently enhanced the EIPH section of our website (available at http://www.nccmt.ca/eiph/index-eng.html). The section already included a dynamic representation of the EIPH steps and links to additional resources and background information. New this spring, NCCMT’s website will offer even more web-based resources to support EIPH:

  • Available mid-April: a self-paced online learning module on Evidence-Informed Decision Making in Public Health (the first of several) that gives more in-depth training on how to implement EIPH using a realistic scenario as a model. Participants interested in professional development can take a pre- and post-module assessment to earn a certificate of completion (will be available at http://www.nccmt.ca/modules/index-eng.html). The learning module provides a practical introduction for EIPH novices as well as a great refresher for past EIPH workshop participants who want to brush up on their skills or share the information with colleagues.
  • Coming soon: a series of short webcasts (in production now) in which NCCMT’s scientific director Dr. Donna Ciliska walks you through each of the steps of EIPH.

We continue to increase the depth and breadth of information on our website and the number of resources associated with each step of the EIPH process. Feedback from website visitors, and module and workshop participants helps direct our activities in this area.

NCCMT’s EIPH wheel reinforces the concept and the steps of incorporating evidence into public health decisions. The wheel is not meant to give all the answers. Rather, it is a hands-on reminder of the steps of EIPH, directing users to the NCCMT website for more detailed information and guidance. Since it was introduced in the spring of 2009, we have distributed the wheel at conferences, workshops and meetings across the country. To get you own EIPH wheel, look for us at upcoming events online at http://www.nccmt.ca/events/non_nccmt_events-eng.html or contact us directly [email protected].

Still not sure where to start?

NCCMT resources can help you at every step along the way. Our Introduction to Evidence-Informed Public Health and Compendium of Critical Appraisal Tools (http://www.nccmt.ca/pubs/2008_07_IntroEIPH_compendiumENG.pdf) walks you through the concept of EIPH and gives you links to practical resources.

V More about the NCCMT

The National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools is one of six National Collaborating Centres (NCCs) for Public Health in Canada (http://www.nccph.ca/en/home.aspx). The NCCs promote and improve the use of scientific research and other knowledge to strengthen public health practices and policies in Canada. They identify knowledge gaps, foster networks and translate existing knowledge to produce and exchange relevant, accessible, and evidence-informed products with researchers, practitioners and policy makers. While the other five NCCs focus on public health themes such as Aboriginal health, environmental health, infectious diseases, healthy public policy and determinants of health, NCCMT focuses on providing leadership and expertise in the methods and tools that support evidence-informed decision making.

Our primary target audiences are public health managers and professionals across Canada who promote and facilitate evidence-informed decision making. Our products and services are freely available and relevant to all public health practitioners, policy makers and researchers.