The McMaster Health Forum’s Impact Lab undertakes cutting-edge research and research synthesis about how to support the use of research evidence in health systems, and it trains students and researchers to undertake such work. The Impact Lab capitalizes on the numerous evaluation opportunities created by the Forum’s innovative programs and by its partners internationally, which collectively provide a ‘natural laboratory’ within which to study innovations in supporting evidence-informed decision-making.
The Forum’s Impact Lab engages a diverse group of staff, students and collaborators to:
- conduct empirical research on the general climate for the use of research evidence in health systems, research prioritization and production processes, and systematic efforts to support the use of research evidence in health systems (including push efforts, efforts to facilitate user pull, user-pull efforts and exchange efforts);
- conduct empirical research on the policymaking process and the factors that influence it, which include institutions, interests, ideas (research evidence, other types of information and values) and external factors;
- regularly update a systematic review of the factors that influence whether and how research evidence is used in policymaking and conduct systematic reviews about related topics; and
- derive concrete implications for research funders, research organizations, knowledge brokers and health-system leaders about how best to support the use of research evidence in decision-making.
A prime example of the first of these four areas of activity is our leadership of the evaluation of knowledge-translation platforms like the World Health Organization-supported Evidence-Informed Policy Networks. If you are a health-system leader or researcher and want to know more, you can access the methods and tools used in this evaluation.
The Forum’s Impact Lab builds capacity in these areas, both in Canada and internationally. At McMaster University, the Impact Lab is actively building capacity at the undergraduate level through the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program, at the master’s level through a number of programs (especially Health Research Methodology), and at the doctoral level through the Health Policy PhD program. Internationally, the Impact Lab has robust partnerships with other institutions, such as the Caribbean Public Health Agency (Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago), Makerere University’s College of Health Sciences (Kampala, Uganda), and the Sax Institute (Sydney, Australia). The McMaster/Makerere partnership has been financially supported through the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) International Research Chair in Evidence-Informed Health Policies and Systems, which has made possible both the enrolment of international students (from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Ethiopia and Uganda) in the Health Policy PhD program and the field work of Health Policy PhD students in a number of settings (e.g., Colombia, Ethiopia, Peru, Uganda and Zambia and at the World Health Organization in Switzerland). The partnerships with many other groups have been financially supported by the Queen Elizabeth Scholarships in Strengthening Health Systems.
Through Forum+, we will now be conducting research and building capacity in social systems as well as in health systems.