How do we drive the use of evidence in public policymaking?: a case study from Fiji. (#120)
Introduction: Multiple efforts are being undertaken globally to confront the public health challenge of overweight, obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Improving the capacity to develop and critique policy options through a robust evidence-based approach will contribute to better policy outcomes. TROPIC (Translational Research in Obesity Prevention in Communities) refined a knowledge brokering approach in Fiji that increased the development of evidence-informed policy briefs that had the potential to improve food and physical activity environments across four government sectors and two non-government organisations. TROPIC 2 built on this approach in order to meet the need for greater capacity for evidence-informed policymaking within the Fiji Ministry of Health (MoH).
Method: Knowledge brokers delivered a 4 month capacity-building programme to selected senior officials in seven key areas in the MoH. The programme comprised four phases: 1) a one week workshop targeting evidence-informed policymaking (EIPM) skills; 2) flexible mentoring to develop evidence-informed pre-determined policy briefs; 3) support in presenting policy briefs to higher level officers; and 4) a subsequent 2-day workshop to strengthen skills developed in phases two and three. Mentoring for participants included one-to-one meetings, email interactions and phone conversations.
Results: Ten of the 12 participants completed the program, each producing a policy brief that was presented to senior MoH officials. Policy topics included improving food and/or physical activity environments; systems within the MoH; and reproductive health care. One policy brief is already being used to develop a policy. Challenges to completing the project included lack of local evidence, insufficient resources for accessing and managing evidence and lack of dedicated time.
Conclusion: Skills in EIPM are relevant across issues within health and, importantly, in other sectors that influence health. A united approach to obesity includes the development of evidence-informed policies from a range of sectors.