As researchers, we hope that when politicians are making decisions about policy, they use our research to help ground their thinking. In Canada, CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research), encourages researchers to make their work accessible, and has specific grant applications focused on Knowledge Translation (KT).
Part of the trouble with evaluating whether or not politicians use research when making decisions about public health is the sheer scope of public health. While we may consider very direct issues, such as vaccinations, one could argue that macro level issues such as agriculture, crime and town planning all affect public health (I briefly mentioned the latter in a previous post).
The problem is further exacerbated by how complicated the literature on public health is. While you can make decisions about drug effectiveness using randomized controlled trial data, public health research can include surveys, cohort/case-control studies and cost-effectiveness analyses. Even expert opinion can be considered a valid resource when used properly.
Now, knowing how complicated this all is, you can still try to draw some conclusions. First, is research evidence used? Secondly, if it is, what kind of evidence is used when making decisions? Third, how do they use evidence? Fourth, what else do they use when making a decision? And finally, what stops them from using research evidence?
More after the jump.