McMaster Health Forum | Rapid Response

If you are a health-system leader (a policymaker or stakeholder) looking for help in answering an urgent health- or social-system question, we can provide the best available research evidence through our Rapid Response program. This program is designed to fill the gap between the ‘self-serve’ option of using Health Systems Evidence or Social Systems Evidence and the ‘full-serve’ option of requesting a stakeholder dialogue informed by a pre-circulated evidence brief (and possibly one or more citizen panels).

Our Rapid Response program provides syntheses of evidence to address requests in three-, 10- or 30-, 60- or 90-business days. The question(s) may be about one or more of any of the following steps that are part of a robust policy analysis: 1) clarifying a problem and its causes 2) framing options for addressing it; 3) identifying implementation considerations; and 4) informing monitoring and evaluation plans. Evidence syntheses are underpinned and may be complemented by systems analysis (i.e., determining how the relevant parts of a health or social system currently work and identifying options for doing things differently) and a political analysis (i.e., understanding the political factors that may affect whether and how issues move onto government agendas and policy decisions are made).

We provide in a separate table below an overview of the types of approaches we used for each of these types of analyses, and a more detailed summary of what can be done in each of these timelines in another table. In general, the longer timelines (e.g., 60- or 90-day requests) allow us to: 1) accommodate more complex questions by conducting and integrating multiple types of analysis and multiple approaches to capture evidence and insights; and 2) broaden the analysis of policy documents and/or interviews beyond the requester’s jurisdiction (e.g., to include other provinces or other countries).

Type of analysis Approach used to capture evidence and insights 
 Documentary analysis  Interviews
 Policy analysis Synthesis of best available research evidence from systematic reviews and primary studies (e.g., benefits, harms and costs of policy options) Identify insights from key stakeholders whose views have already been captured in grey literature reports not indexed in online databases
 System analysis Analysis of policy documents (e.g., legislation/regulation) and other sources (e.g., local data) that provide information and context about how key parts of a health or social system work Identify insights from key informants about how key parts of a health or social system work and options for doing things differently 
 Political analysis  Analysis of policy documents (e.g., speeches from the throne and political party platforms) and other sources (e.g., stakeholder websites) to identify factors that may affect government agenda setting and decision-making processes Identify insights from key informants about political factors that may affect government agenda setting and decision-making processes 


Our approach to conducting rapid syntheses is underpinned by a commitment to being systematic and transparent in identifying and synthesizing evidence and insights for health- and social-system leaders, and our experience is growing increasingly rich in terms of:

  • volume of completed requests;
  • focus on pressing health- and social-system issues;
  • questions addressed (e.g., problems, options, implementation considerations, and monitoring and evaluation plans);
  • types of evidence and insights synthesized (e.g., by drawing on systematic reviews and primary studies, as well as from policy documents and key informant interviews); and 
  • analytic experience and expertise in policy, system and political analysis, which allows us to go farther, faster in responding to urgent requests.

Contact us at to set up a service agreement so your organization can call on us when a rapid response is needed (or to initiate a request if your organization is covered under an existing service agreement).

To learn more about the Forum's Rapid Response program and its outputs:

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