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The utility of systematic reviews for informing agri-food public health policy: a survey of Canadian policy makers

Date and Location




Saturday 21 September 2013 - 10:30 - 12:00


Presenting author and contact person

Presenting author

Mai Pham

Contact person

Mai Pham
Abstract text
Background: In recent years, several systematic reviews-meta-analyses (SR-MAs) have been published addressing various agri-food public health topics. It is not known to what extent agri-food public health policy-makers are aware of SR-MAs and how their evidence could be used to inform policy. Furthermore, the traditional format in which SR-MAs are disseminated (i.e. journal articles) may present a barrier towards their use among these end-users. Objectives: The objectives are this study were to investigate the extent to which policy makers in Canada are aware of and have used evidence from SR-MAs to inform their work, and to gather their feedback on the utility of SR-MAs and three corresponding summary formats to inform policy. Methods: An online survey was conducted from July-September, 2012 with policy makers, advisors, analysts and program managers and directors in Canada—from all levels of government and industry. Nine questions pertained to familiarity with and use of SR-MAs and other knowledge syntheses. Participants were also asked to provide feedback on a SR-MA article and three corresponding summary formats: a summary-of-findings table, a one-page summary and a three-page summary with supporting contextual information (e.g. costs, practicality, public sensitivity). Semi-structured interviews were held with six participants interested in discussing their survey responses in more detail. Results: The survey was completed by 92 individuals, comprised mainly of policy analysts (32.6%), policy advisors (32.6%), and program managers/directors (15.2%). Most participants had previously read a systematic review (73.9%), and 37.8% had used evidence from a SR-MA to inform a policy. Given a choice between the four formats, the three-page summary with contextual information was the preferred resource to inform policy (50.5%). Conclusions: We found a high awareness about SR-MAs and other knowledge synthesis methods among participants in this study. The results indicate that disseminating evidence from SR-MAs in more user-friendly formats can maximize its potential uptake by end-users.