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Realising Rights project shortlisted for a British Medical Journal (BMJ) award

Most researchers want their work to have an impact on policy and practice but many are unclear about what influencing strategies they should use. Researchers and communications professionals in the Realising Rights Research Programme Consortium have been working as part of SHHEP to understand how to encourage decision makers to use their findings. This work has been shortlisted for a BMJ award.

Exploring complexity: The SHHEP Group

The Sexual Health and HIV Evidence into Practice (SHHEP) is led by Sally Theobald at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Jo Crichton of the African Population and Health Research Center. It is a joint project of Department for International Development (DFID) funded consortia: Realising Rights; Programme for Research and Capacity Building on Sexual and Reproductive Health in Developing Countries; Addressing the Balance and Burden of HIV/AIDS (ABBA) and Evidence for Action (EFA).

SHHEP is conducting research to understand the growing body of literature on the connections between research, policy and practice. Its purpose is to extract learning from our own work to help us understand more about the use of research to combat sexual and reproductive ill health and HIV in developing countries.

The project included extensive interviews with researchers, communication specialists  and other stakeholders and an international workshop to discuss SHHEP case studies. The findings from the project are available online in an issue of insights, a brief of main learning from our meeting and a series of U-Tube videos. A Special Issue of Health Policy and Planning will be available later.

“If we are serious about tackling these very serious health issues which are often neglected, contested and difficult to talk about then the uptake of evidence is enormously important. A major feature of SHHEP has been its investment in improving health research communications. Increased reflection and experimentation with research communication techniques has enhanced confidence, knowledge and skills and enabled academics to be strategic about the tools they used to target particular audiences,” said Sally Theobald.

This work has highlighted the importance of:

  • Undertaking reflective assessments of the policy relevance of your research evidence, its scope and limitations and the ethical implications of communicating the research.
  • Carrying out strategic scoping of opportunities and levers for influence through analysis of the policy context, actors and processes, including the political or cultural acceptability of your research findings.
  • Assessing the nature of the research evidence and consulting with other key actors on how best to frame it in ways that increase local decision makers’ receptivity.
  • Keeping communications strategies flexible and relevant to partners’ objectives to keep them effective.
  • Using creative and innovative techniques, without jargon, to make the communications work less alien or off-putting for researchers.

About the award

The annual BMJ Group Awards recognise individuals, organisations and initiatives that demonstrate outstanding and measurable contributions to health care. SHHEP was nominated by the Department for International Development, UK in the Getting Research into Practice category. The winners of all the awards will be announced at the BMJ Group Awards ceremony at the London Hilton on Park Lane on 10 March.