The ability to inform policies, programs and service delivery with scientific evidence continues to benefit individuals, communities and our society as a whole, so it is important that researchers develop skills not only in sharing their results in ways that speak to targeted audiences, but also in fostering relationships with these knowledge users.

The Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) at the University of Manitoba, Canada, who have been conducting research and evaluation to provide timely and critical evidence to answer real-world policy questions for more than 30 years, have gained a deep understanding that, despite the immense volume and wealth of openly available research findings generated over time, policy-makers pay more attention to research findings into which they have invested time and funds, as they are responsible for getting a return on their investment.

However, in Manitoba, policy-makers have supported the growth of the MCHP Data Repository over the last 30 years because researchers at MCHP have “closed the loop” by sharing valuable and policy-relevant research results with them. Ultimately, “closing the loop” has been a critical component of MCHP’s success.

MCHP is home to the world-class, whole-population Manitoba Population Research Data Repository, a powerful administrative, registry and survey data resource that serves as a platform for sophisticated intersectoral analyses impacting the design and delivery of new and existing policies and programs.

The Data Repository at MCHP encompasses approximately 100 linkable and regularly updated databases across six domains, including health and health service use, education, social services, and the justice system.

Professor Alan Katz, Director of the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, commented that “Our job as researchers is to frame our findings for key audiences (policy makers, the public or system managers) in a way that will help them understand the results and support their implementation in the policy cycle.”

Their latest article published in the International Journal of Population Data Science (IJPDS), summarizes some of the key lessons that researchers at MCHP have learned about research that can influence policy, and emphasizes the central role of relationships between researchers and policy-makers.

  • Relationship building takes time and requires good communication amongst participants; meaningful relationships are built on mutual trust and respect.
  • Having a solid foundation of established and growing relationships with policy-makers has allowed MCHP to navigate shifts and changes in political priorities and funding availability while ensuring they maintain academic freedom in their research.
  • Presenting research findings strategically in an action-oriented and policy-relevant way that policy-makers can easily understand and translate into policy change or development.
  • Shaping the take-home messages from the research for other important audiences; MCHP communicates directly with the public, with members of the media and with peers in the scientific community.
  • Ensuring that the public plays a role in influencing health and social policy, since they are voters and taxpayers with their own priorities and values, and can make their voices heard through municipal, provincial and federal channels.

For these reasons, it is important that researchers learn about the population’s needs and address them through health and social policy research and evaluation.

 

Click here to read the full open access article

Dr. Alan Katz, Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, University of Manitoba, 408-727 McDermot Ave, Winnipeg, Canada

Katz, A., Brownell, M., Enns, J. and Nickel, N. (2021) “Closing the loop: From system-based data to evidence-influenced policy and practice”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 6(3). doi: 10.23889/ijpds.v7i1.1701.