Knowledge Transfer and Exchange in Work and Health Research
Van Eerd, Dwayne
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Knowledge transfer and exchange (KTE) is the practice of preparing and disseminating research to those who can use it. The burden of workplace injury and illness can be great affecting workers, workplaces, the medical system, insurance systems and society as a whole. Occupational health and safety is an important aspect of prevention of workplace injury and illness. However prevention activities are varied and may not be based on the best available evidence, being therefore less effective than possible. The overall aim of the thesis is to examine and evaluate KTE activities and the conceptual basis for KTE in work and heath research. Specific objectives include i) providing an overview of the KTE approaches from the literature which target workplace audiences; ii) disseminating and documenting the uptake and use of an evidence-based tool (PE guide) across British Columbia; iii) document and describe the dissemination activities and the KTE experiences of research staff within work and health research organizations; and iv) examine the conceptual basis of the work and health KTE activities. This thesis consists of four manuscripts that describe three studies: a narrative review of the literature summarizing KTE approaches in work and health research, a study exploring the dissemination and use of an evidence-based guide, and a survey study evaluating the KTE activities of work and health researchers. Though different methodologies were employed the three studies used an organizing conceptual framework by Lavis et al. (2003) comprised of five questions: (1) What (information disseminated), (2) To Whom (target audience, and context), (3) By Whom (messengers), (4) How (KTE approach), (5) What effect (outcomes, impact). The review findings suggest a variety of KTE approaches to transfer work and health research knowledge to workplaces. The KTE approaches address various target audiences and workplace contexts related to health and safety and tended to be guided by conceptual frameworks. The evaluation of KTE approaches is challenging and future research should be designed to allow for more rigorous evaluation. The study describing the dissemination and use of an evidence-based tool reveals that respondents felt the greatest barrier to using the tool was a lack of time. However those that did use the guide reported using it for training purposes, sharing it, and integrating the tool into existing programs. In addition, new actions related to tool use included training, defining team responsibilities and suggesting program implementation steps. The dissemination study suggests that when evidence-based tools were used they helped work and health audiences overcome some challenges involved in using evidence in implementing injury reduction programs. The study provided a better understanding about the uptake and use of this type of tool. Work and health researchers reported that KTE activities were important and they felt confident about interactions with knowledge users. Respondents reported engaging in various KTE activities that extended beyond the typical academic approaches of ‘publish and present’. However they reported that processes supporting KTE as well as the promotion and evaluation of research use could be improved. The KTE activities of work and health research staff address the categories of two popular KTE conceptual frameworks. However, only one-third of respondents reported using guidance from conceptual frameworks in practice. Future research should examine whether KTE activities based on conceptual frameworks have greater impact than those that are not so guided. Taken together the chapters provide a comprehensive picture of KTE in work and health research. The findings reveal important common elements of KTE from the literature as well as work and health research staff. The findings also provide some evidence that disseminating an evidence-based tool has impacts on practice. However work and health research staff KTE activities still focus on traditional academic avenues and often lack guidance form conceptual frameworks. Future research is necessary to further evaluate KTE practice in work and health.