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Levels of research evidence in health policy assessment in Malawi

Patrick Mapulanga (Department of Knowledge and Information Stewardship, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa)
Jaya Raju (Department of Knowledge and Information Stewardship, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa)
Thomas Matingwina (Department of Information Science, National University of Science and Technology Zimbabwe, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 21 March 2019

Issue publication date: 4 April 2019

373

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to examine levels of health research evidence in health policies in Malawi.

Design/methodology/approach

The study selected a typology of health policies in Malawi from 2002 to 2017. The study adopted the SPIRIT conceptual framework and assessed the levels of research evidence in health policy, systems and services research using the revised SAGE policy assessment tool. Documentary analysis was used to assess levels of health research evidence in health policies in Malawi.

Findings

In 29 (96.7 per cent) of the health policies, policy formulators including healthcare directors and managers used generic search engines such as Google or Google Scholar to look for heath research evidence. In 28 (93.3 per cent) of the health policies, they searched for grey literature and other government documents. In only 6 (20 per cent) of the heath policy documents, they used academic literature in a form of journal articles and randomised controlled trials. No systematic reviews or policy briefs were consulted. Overall, in 23 (76.7 per cent) of the health policy documents, health research evidence played a minimal role and had very little influence on the policy documents or decision-making.

Research limitations/implications

The empirical evidence in the health policy documents are limited because of insufficient research citation, low retrievability of health research evidence in the policy documents and biased selectivity of what constitutes health research evidence.

Practical implications

The study indicates that unfiltered information (data from policy evaluations and registries) constitutes majority of the research evidence in health policies both in health policy, systems and services research. The study seeks to advocate for the use of filtered information (peer reviewed, clinical trials and data from systematic reviews) in formulating health policies.

Originality/value

There is dearth of literature on the levels of health research evidence in health policy-making both in health policy, systems and services research. This study seeks to bridge the gap with empirical evidence from a developing country perspective.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The researcher wishes to acknowledge funding support from the University of Cape Town Incoming International Student Award.

Citation

Mapulanga, P., Raju, J. and Matingwina, T. (2019), "Levels of research evidence in health policy assessment in Malawi", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 226-250. https://doi.org/10.1108/LHS-09-2018-0050

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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