McMaster Health Forum | Impact - Spark Action

Our stakeholder dialogues and citizen panels have helped spark action on many pressing health issues.

Impact of the Forum's Spark Action programs

Impact of stakeholder dialogues

Our model of stakeholder dialogues was first developed by John Lavis to support the World Health Organization-sponsored Evidence-Informed Policy Networks (EVIPNet) and has now been taken up in 44 countries, including the Caribbean (Caribbean Public Health Agency), Eastern Europe (e.g., EVIPNet Slovenia), Latin America (e.g., EVIPNet Chile), Middle East (e.g., Knowledge to Policy Center in Lebanon), and Sub-Saharan Africa (REACH Uganda).

Three key lessons have emerged from our evaluations of stakeholder dialogues, both those convened by us at the Forum and those convened by our partners:

  • the features of both the evidence briefs (e.g., addressing a problem, options and implementation considerations) and stakeholder dialogues (e.g., using the Chatham House rule) are very highly rated by health-system leaders (in formative evaluations);
  • the combination of the brief and dialogue lead to strong intentions to act among dialogue participants (in summative evaluations); and
  • the combination of the brief and dialogue also lead to both direct impacts on the policymaking process (e.g., influencing a cabinet decision) and indirect impacts on the policymaking process (e.g., changing how key stakeholders conceive of a problem or options to address it in their efforts to influence policy).

As an example of a direct impact, we have gone in as little as seven weeks from a call from an associate deputy minister to a cabinet decision. In this time we brought together a steering committee to oversee the work, drafted the terms of reference for an evidence brief, conducted 26 key informant interviews to get feedback on the terms of reference, searched for data and evidence to inform the evidence brief, convened the stakeholder dialogue, prepared a dialogue summary, and conducted a personalized briefing.

Impact of citizen panels

Our model for citizen panels was created in recognition of the importance of understanding citizens’ unique understandings of health-system issues, and their values and preferences for addressing them.

Three key lessons have emerged from our evaluations of citizen panels:

  • the features of both the citizen briefs and citizen panels are very highly rated by panel participants (in formative evaluations); 
  • the combination of the brief and the panel leads to increases in citizens’ knowledge about the health-system issues addressed in the panels (in summative evaluations); and
  • convening a citizen panel prior to a stakeholder dialogue on the same issue is highly valued by dialogue participants, as it allows them to be informed by both citizens’ values and preferences as well as the best available evidence during deliberations about how to address pressing health-system issues.

Participants at our panels have used the insights gained from the process to actively engage in discussions with the media.  Several of our partners who have requested citizen panels, as well as dialogue participants, have also attested to the importance of the findings and their value as an input to stakeholder dialogues. Here is what they have to say:

“Loved the citizen engagement in both the views about the challenges and the values and preferences - great guide for approaches for person- and family-centred solutions.”
A participant in a stakeholder dialogue on Strengthening care for frail older adults in Canada

“The OMA has worked with the McMaster Health Forum on a few projects and we have found the insights gained through the citizen panels to be very helpful. Coupled with the evidence summaries, they’ve given us a nuance that has allowed us to get more out of the dialogue day and to understand the issues from a much broader perspective.”
Barb LeBlanc, Executive Director, Health Policy & Promotion, Ontario Medical Association

“Asking the right questions and understanding what patients’ need, as opposed to forming responses based on what we think they need, are keys to addressing the tough policy issues in health care. The McMaster Health Forum stakeholder dialogue on the future of health workforce planning was one of the richest conversations I’ve taken part in since I began my role here at the ministry. That’s because the conversation we were having was supported by the true, well-researched patient perspectives obtained through the citizens panels and brief.”
Denise Cole, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health Workforce Planning & Regulatory Affairs Division, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

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