The use of evidence to inform decisions in public health policy has been viewed as important since the evidence-based public health movement started more than 20 years ago. Nevertheless, studies find that scientific evidence plays a limited role in public health policy. Furthermore, the term 'evidence' does not have a universally accepted definition. The perception of what constitutes evidence varies across different public health stakeholders. Stakeholders can be described as groups or individuals who are involved with or are affected by public health decisions, including policy-makers across multiple sectors at national, regional and local levels, public health practitioners and service providers, researchers across a range of academic disciplines, representatives of the media and the general public. Such a lack of a common language and understanding about evidence use in public health decision-making greatly hampers an effective exchange between researchers and decision-makers.
To develop a conceptualisation of the term 'evidence' in a broad sense, taking into account how different types of evidence are used and understood by different public health stakeholders and in different stages of public health decision-making processes.
We will employ a combination of desktop and field research. First, we will conduct a systematic review and qualitative synthesis on 1) how different types of evidence are conceptualised in the scientific literature and 2) how and what types of evidence are used in public health decision-making processes. Second, we will carry out qualitative interviews with stakeholders in public health policy and practice and with researchers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to investigate 1) their views on what they consider to be 'evidence' and 2) the role that different types of evidence play in their day-to-day work.
We will present results from the first part of the project, i.e. the systematic literature review, and provide a first draft of a conceptualisation of 'evidence' as used and understood by different stakeholders, based on our qualitative synthesis.
Providing a basis for understanding of the term 'evidence' and different types of evidence will lay the groundwork for better collaboration between different stakeholder groups and researchers in public health decision-making.