Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 February 2013
Visiting Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
National University of Singapore, Singapore and formerly
Director, Research, Policy and Cooperation World Health Organization
In an age of financial crises, diminishing resources and competing priorities, Anne Andermann’s book is very timely and fills an important gap in the critical area of developing sound and sustainable health policies. While many books and manuals have been written on the use of evidence in the development of clinical practice guidelines, there have been very few attempts at a treatise on the use of evidence in policy formulation. Written as a practical guide to evidence-informed decision-making, this book will be an invaluable tool for policy-makers and others, including health practitioners, enabling and empowering them to make rational decisions and better withstand vested interests and political, economic and even ideological pressures, which are so pervasive in the policy sphere.
Based on her own extensive experience, the author takes us systematically through the strategies commonly used to improve health, and the more difficult topic of how decisions are made which impact health outcomes. She then tackles the practical issue of producing evidence and the critical bottleneck which exists between the production and use of evidence. Often, a major challenge is the lack of understanding between researchers and policy-makers, which, I believe, can be overcome to a large extent by giving attention to the issues highlighted in this book. In the chapter on evidence production, the author highlights, for example, the increasing importance of implementation research, which aims to develop strategies for optimising the delivery, uptake and use of new or existing interventions by populations in need. This type of research is particularly important in supplying the kind of evidence which policy-makers appreciate and understand more readily than basic biomedical or even clinical research. The chapter also highlights the importance of evaluating the impact of policy, and how such research can feed back into the “knowledge loop” in an iterative, reinforcing manner. The final chapter cogently tackles the oft-neglected final step of how evidence-informed decisions are actually made, highlighting the necessity of coming up with various options which take into account ethical, social, legal and cultural issues, and the sensitivities and concerns of interested parties who may be affected by the decision.