Strengthening Health Systems by Translating Research into Action

At the Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, conference attendees have (unsurprisingly) been buzzing about data. What data do we have available to support evidence based decision making? Where can you find the data? Who has access? How is it shared to promote data use? And more related questions, all aiming to get at the key question of how you translate research into action.

Linking implementers and researchers closely through improved communications channels and closer ties in how we work are both key. Duncan Green published a pointed post around what actions researchers should take once they publish a paper to make sure it gets read by disseminating your findings in creative ways, particularly using social media, blogs, infographics, and other creative media to amplify your reach.

He stops short of advising how to get the findings in the hands of those specific audiences who would find them most useful in their work though, which is where WonkComms picks up with some specific, action oriented suggestions on how we can reframe our thinking around publishing research to maximize impact. In his suggestions, he points to the need to move away from artifacts (the final paper) and towards thinking about engagement and dialogue; argues for a more accessible funnel of information – big themes first, details later, much like what we do when designing an elegant and effective dashboard; and promotes thinking specifically around how you make information accessible to the appropriate audiences.

Thoughtful data visualization design is one of the most effective tools researchers have to translate their data into meaningful information. One of today’s concurrent sessions that got raves from JSI staff who attended focused on showing tools and techniques for scraping data and visualizing it to create impactful graphs, charts, and maps that transform tables into visuals that a policy maker or program manager could use in their planning. By inviting attendees to follow along, the presenter, Jeff Knezovich, provided hands on capacity building of researchers and technical staff at the conference in how to visualize data effectively. Many of the programs and tools highlighted in the session are also highlighted in our recently released Data Visualization Resource Guide, which provides an overview of helpful tools and resources for building beautiful visualizations.

Tools like dashboards and topical information catalogues are wonderful spaces for starting to link researchers and implementers (and policy makers) together, and can be powerful approaches for increasing the reach of information. But once these tools are built, how can we make sure they’re landing in the hands of the right people? And how do we increase the likelihood the information is used in a meaningful way? We’d love to hear about your experience translating research into action in the comments below and at our exhibit at #HSR2014!

To learn more about how we work to strengthen health systems through data visualization design, visit the JSI exhibit at stand #24.

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