Interactive Processes and Evidence-Informed Knowledge Use in Public Health: The Example of Youth Physical Activity in the SHAPES-Ontario KE Extension
Roth, Melissa Lynn
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Objective: Significant investments to address childhood obesity require that we understand the factors that facilitate the use of research among public health practitioners in order to support evidence-informed strategies. Therefore the objective of this study is to understand the role of the interactive support of the SHAPES-Ontario Knowledge Exchange Extension (KE Extension) on evidence-informed knowledge use concerning youth physical activity in public health. The interactive support is defined according to three components: 1) Collaborative Partnership, 2) Community of Practice, and 3) Knowledge Broker. Methods: Two different groups of Public Health Organisations were selected. The Intervention group consisted of two Ontario Public Health Units from the SHAPES-Ontario KE Extension. The Comparison group consisted of one Ontario Public Health Unit and one Manitoba Regional Health Authority. The Comparison organisations did not have the intervention of the KE Extension. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with approximately four to five staff from each organisation. Qualitative analysis identified instances of evidence-informed knowledge use, interactive processes and other factors that influenced knowledge use related to youth physical activity in public health program planning and decision-making. This resulted in comprehensive case studies for each organisation. Cross case analysis identified the dominant similarities and difference in the factors that influence evidence-informed knowledge use across the organisations and how they inter-relate. Results: The cross case analysis indicated that having access to local youth physical activity surveillance data (e.g., SHAPES data) was the most important facilitator of evidence-informed practice. Interactive processes, specifically working groups, partnerships, and knowledge brokers, were found to be an important factor across the fours organisations. These interactive processes were found to have a reciprocal relationship with the information source and the context for sue, further facilitating evidence-informed knowledge use. The specific interactive mechanisms of the KE Extension did not emerge from the data, as the intervention was not intensive enough compared to the other activities within the Intervention organisations. Conclusions: Providing public health practitioners with access to local and relevant research evidence, coupled with intensive, sustained, and consistent interactive support for planning and decision-making may be effective at encouraging evidence-informed practice related to youth physical activity.