Health staff need help to find, appraise, interpret and apply findings from systematic reviews in topics that they understand and are important to them. We developed a generic course to increase the capacity of researchers, practitioners and policy makers to use systematic reviews. We implemented and evaluated the course in various settings tailored to the specific needs of participants.
Methods: The Primer in Systematic Review course is offered as a face:face (4 days using interactive methods) or a purely online 6-week course dually accredited at the University of Stellenbosch and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Practical examples and systematic reviews were tailored to specific groups of participants. The online course consists of presentations, practical examples, links to relevant resources, exercises and self-assessments. For both formats, participants engaged with each other and facilitators, before, during and after the course.
Results: During the last 5 years, we have offered the face:face course in various settings. Firstly in Tanzania (2012) for malaria researchers at Ifakara Research Centre. Subsequent course participants included, among others, TB specialists in Chennai (2015); neglected tropical diseases policy and programme staff in Ghana and Cameroon (2016/7); and, public health policy specialists working for the Department for International Development in the UK (2017). Participants enjoyed the interactive nature, relevant examples, blended-teaching approach, and called for expansion of the workshop to reach a wider audience. For many, it was the first time they had read a systematic review. Benefits included learning at the participants’ own pace and in a place convenient to them. Participants liked the self-assessment, variation in activities and resources while challenges included slow internet speeds and limited assessments.
Conclusion: We have successfully implemented face:face and online Primer in Systematic Review courses. Through pragmatic, interactive approaches, we are enhancing researchers’, clinicians’ and public health policy makers’ capacity to find, appraise, interpret and use systematic reviews.