McMaster Health Forum celebrates 15-years of providing timely demand-driven evidence support

Over the past 15 years, the McMaster Health Forum has supported efforts to address health and broader societal challenges using the best-available research evidence and experiences and insights from citizens, professionals, organizational leaders, and government policymakers. To celebrate this milestone, Forum Director John Lavis reflected on our growth and impact in a brief interview.

Q: What inspired you to launch the McMaster Health Forum?

A: “When we started in 2009, colleagues at McMaster asked why we were working with countries around the world but not here in Canada. We were open to it but didn’t initially see the demand for evidence that we saw in other countries. We decided to start offering our services here and the demand has just grown and grown. It’s been lovely to see the incredible shifts that have happened over the last decade and a half in terms of people’s openness to using evidence, including at the highest levels of government.”

Q: What changes have you seen in how governments are using evidence in decision-making?

A: “People in advisory and decision-making processes are much more receptive to using evidence and are now starting to ask for it. On the supply side, we can now move at the same speed as policy processes. The combination of the increase on the demand-side and the responsiveness and timeliness on the supply side have really opened up incredible opportunities for using evidence in decision-making.”

Q: How will the production and use of evidence change over the next 15-years?

A: The production and use of evidence has changed so much in the last three years that it’s so hard to think 15-years out. If I think of even about the next year or two, I believe that selected use of artificial intelligence will help us to speed up and improve the accuracy of certain aspects of our work. For example, AI could help to rank order research articles on a given topic by relevance so that our energy can be focused on studies more likely to provide high-information value rather than having to manually review thousands of articles. The other area where I anticipate that we’re going to see big changes is in the use of integrative products that bring together the different strands of evidence. Rather than having multiple products each addressing a specific element of the issue, these integrated products will bring these different research elements together in a more compelling way to inform decision-making by policymakers.

>> Read the full Q&A on McMaster's Brighter World

>> Read more in our 15-year report