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How do you get policymakers to take more notice of your research?
We would all like to believe that the best possible evidence informs health policy. Unfortunately, the translation of evidence into policy is not a simple process. So how do we make our research more accessible and useful to policy makers?
This was the dilemma tackled by 25 academic and clinical researchers at a two-day course presented by the Health Services Research Association of Australia and New Zealand (HSRAANZ)the Deeble Institute for Health policy Research and the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) in Sydney on 3 and 4 September, at the The Sydney Policy Lab, curtesy of Sydney Health Partners.
A practical focus
Combining theory with a strong practical focus, over the two days delegates received training on the fundamentals of writing for policymakers and communicating in the mainstream media. Practical sessions saw delegates translate a piece of their own research into a policy backgrounder and a media release, with ample opportunity provided for delegates to develop, present and receive feedback on their own work.
The course was expertly facilitated by Dr Rebecca Haddock Director, Deeble Institute for Policy Research and Alison Verhoeven Chief Executive, AHHA, whose insider take on the unique challenges of influencing time pressed ministers was insightful.
Dr Rebecca Randall, former Health Policy Adviser to the Australian Greens addressed methods used by policy and political advisers when obtaining and using research evidence and the challenges they face. Dr Patrick Harris, Menzies Centre for Health Policy Research, Sydney University gave practical tips for overcoming barriers to effective knowledge translation. The critical role consumers play in shaping health policy was the theme of a presentation from Danny VaDasz, CEO Health Issues Centre.
And in the final presentation on day two Dr David Marshall AM, Talkforce Media looked at the challenges of communicating research in the media including key messages, media releases and backgrounders and how even the most seasoned politicians sometimes get it wrong.
A highlight of the course was role playing the presentation of a pitch to a distracted and time pressed minister, expertly enacted by Alison.
“The media session was fantastic. I found the session on "overcoming barriers to knowledge translation" really useful, if somewhat daunting thinking about the time and effort that must be put into getting "impact" especially in health services research where change is incremental at the best of times. The fact that all the presenters spoke from real world experience was really useful”
“Talks which emphasized practical realities and tools/approaches were the most useful. The concept of social listening via FB was really interesting!”
“The media release templates and policy brief templates will be incredibly useful. The idea of being prepared and practising with the team before meeting with Ministers and or doing interviews was a good reminder. We are already considering how we can apply what was taught on the course to our specific work context.”
Delegate learng from the course included improved understanding of:
- the realities of the policy making process and the environment in which policymakers work;
- the differences between academic writing and writing for policy makers
- how to identify essential stakeholders for implementing evidence into policy and practice
- how to engage with the policy making process and influence outcomes
- how to engage with the media and non-academic audiences
- how to draft a policy piece related to their own research