Commentary on “The Effectiveness Of Evidence Summaries On Health Policymakers And Health System Managers Use Of Evidence From Systematic Reviews: A Systematic Review”

Feb 13,2017 | Jennifer Leeman Featured Articles

Commentary: Incorporating systematic review findings into policy is essential to improving population health. Implementation scientists in particular are in a position to assess the most effective approaches for translating systematic review findings into useful products for healthcare administrators, legislative staff, and other policymakers. In their recent article in Implementation Science titled “The effectiveness of evidence summaries on health policymakers and health system managers use of evidence from systematic reviews: a systematic review,” Petkovic et al. report their findings from six randomized control trials that assessed the impact of evidence summaries on policy-making.1 The authors took a comprehensive approach to reviewing the literature and used rigorous methods to extract and report the data. Primary outcomes of interest were the use of systematic review summaries in decision-making, and changes in policymakers’ knowledge and beliefs. They concluded that evidence summaries have value: they are generally easier to understand than the full text of a systematic review, and targeted, tailored messages can lead to an increase in evidence-based public health policies and programs. However, the limited certainty of evidence and small differences in effect size prevented the authors from confirming a significant, positive relationship between exposure to systematic review summaries and policy makers’ use of evidence. This conclusion is consistent with findings of other reviews of dissemination strategies 2 that have found print materials alone were insufficient to change practice and needed to be supplemented with other methods. Some methods that may be particularly important to enhance the impact of evidence summaries on policy-making include incorporating interpersonal communication strategies (e.g., knowledge brokers), demonstrating how review findings apply to local populations (e.g., simulation), and/or mobilizing community members to promote evidence-informed policy change. Petkovic and colleagues provide further impetus for implementation scientists to determine how to leverage the large effort that goes into conducting a rigorous systematic review to make policies that improve population health and well-being.

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1 Petkovic J, Welch V, Jacob MH, et al. The effectiveness of evidence summaries on health policymakers and health system managers use of evidence from systematic reviews: a systematic review. Implementation Science. 2016;11(1):162.

2 McCormack L, Sheridan S, Lewis M, et al. Communication and Dissemination Strategies to Facilitate the Use of Health-Related Evidence. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2013 Nov. (Evidence Reports/Technology Assessments, No. 213.) Available from: