Knowledge mobilisation for chronic disease prevention

By Dr Abby Haynes

The paper

Wutzke S, Rowbotham S, Haynes A, Hawe P, Kelly P, Redman S, Davidson S, Stephenson J, Overs M, Wilson A. Knowledge mobilisation for chronic disease prevention: the case of the Australian Prevention Partnership Centre. Health Res Policy Sy. 2018;16:109. doi: 10.1186/s12961-018-0379-9

Why we studied this topic

Partnerships between policymakers and researchers are increasingly being used to optimise the uptake of evidence in policy. Partnership research, like the the work being undertaken at the Prevention Centre, moves beyond models where ‘knowledge producers’ disseminate research to ‘knowledge users’. Rather, it blends the expertise of policymakers and researchers who co-create knowledge together. This may be especially important when addressing complex problems such as chronic disease, where there are multiple interconnected causes, competing stakeholder interests and uncertain solutions.

However, there is no gold standard for how these partnerships should be formed or what strategies they should employ to maximise effectiveness. We still know relatively little about how the activities in partnerships are connected to outcomes. So we decided to use the Prevention Centre as an example of how one such partnership was working in practice. We conducted interviews with 26 of the Centre’s 31 chief investigators to identify structures, processes and strategies that they perceived as critical to the Centre’s functioning.

What this paper adds

In this paper, we developed a model that depicts how the Centre mobilises knowledge – how it brings people together to learn and work collaboratively in producing and using policy-relevant research, tools and resources. The model identifies (a) the Centre’s governance and organisational structures, (b) its six knowledge mobilisation mechanisms—engagement, capacity building, partnership formation, co-production, knowledge integration and adaptive learning, and (c) its intended outcomes for advancing prevention in chronic disease.

What was surprising

Partnership research isn’t easy, but it can be done. We found that the Prevention Centre has built on structures and strategies identified in the wider literature on collaboration and has started to deliver on its goal to advance chronic disease prevention. It is doing this by developing new knowledge, tools, resources and methods; providing policy-relevant advice; and influencing how policymakers are learning about, engaging with and using research.

What it means for policy

While this model is specific to The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre, we suspect that it is broadly applicable to other policy-research partnerships and may provide a useful starting point for them in considering what structures, processes and strategies would be most effective in their circumstances.