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Obstacles and opportunities to using research evidence in local public health decision-making in England

Kneale, D; Rojas-García, A; Thomas, J; (2019) Obstacles and opportunities to using research evidence in local public health decision-making in England. Health Research Policy and Systems , 17 (1) , Article 61. 10.1186/s12961-019-0446-x. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Local public health service delivery and policy-setting in England was overhauled in 2013, with local government now responsible for the complex tasks involved in protecting and improving population health and addressing health inequalities. Since 2013, public health funding per person has declined, adding to the challenge of public health decision-making. In a climate of austerity, research evidence could help to guide the more effective use of resources, although there are concerns that the reorganisation of public health decision-making structures has disrupted traditional evidence use patterns. This study aimed to explore local public health evidence use and needs in this new decision-making climate. Methods: Semi-structured interviews with Public Health Practitioners across three Local Authorities were conducted, with sites purposefully selected to represent urban, suburban and county Local Authorities, and to reflect a range of public health issues that might be encountered. A topic guide was developed that allowed participants to reflect on their experience and involvement in providing evidence for, or making a decision around, commissioning a public health service. Data were transcribed and template analysis was employed to understand the findings, which involved developing a coding template based on an initial transcript and applying this to subsequent transcripts. Results: Increased political involvement in local public health decision-making, while welcomed by some participants as a form of democratising public health, has influenced evidence preferences in a number of ways. Political and individual ideologies of locally elected officials meant that certain forms of evidence could be overlooked in favour of evidence that corresponded to decision-makers’ preferences. Political involvement at the local level has increased the appetite for local knowledge and evidence. Research evidence needs to demonstrate its local salience if it is to contribute to decisionmaking alongside competing sources, particularly anecdotal information. Conclusion: To better meet decision-making needs of politicians and practitioners, a shift in the scope of public health evidence is required. At a systematic review level, this could involve moving away from producing evidence that reflects broad global generalisations about narrow and simple questions, and instead towards producing forms of evidence that have local applicability and can support complex policy-focussed decisions

Type: Article
Title: Obstacles and opportunities to using research evidence in local public health decision-making in England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s12961-019-0446-x
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12961-019-0446-x
Language: English
Additional information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Social Research Institute
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10077327
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