Evidence synthesis for health policy and systems: Approaches, challenges and stakeholder engagement

Target audience

  • Researchers and policymakers
  • Stakeholders actively engaged in:
    • Health systems decision-making and policymaking;
    • Supporting health systems decision makers and policy makers through evidence;
    • Conducting evidence syntheses relevant to health policy and systems.

Researchers and policy makers will be invited to the session to share their views on using evidence to inform health policy and systems decisions. 

Policymakers and managers trying to make the best decisions for health systems policies and programmes, face a difficult task.  Health systems are increasingly complex and evidence on the best approaches to resolving health policy and systems challenges can be hard to find, or can come from multiple sources that might not easily speak to each other. Health policy and systems researchers can however ease this burden by supporting policymakers, decision-makers and managers, through synthesising the best available evidence addressing these complex and context-sensitive challenges. This session will address different approaches in the field of health systems research synthesis, including lessons learnt in engaging health system stakeholders in the synthesis process.  


1) Dialogue on the challenges and solutions to support the conduct and use of health systems research synthesis (30 minutes)

This dialogue will address the challenges, approaches and methods relevant to health systems research synthesis and the development of policy-relevant systematic reviews. Review centres established in LMIC settings will introduce their experience in conducting evidence syntheses, engaging end-users in the synthesis process and promoting their integration in policy and practice.

A health system decision-maker from South Africa will then speak to the relevance and uptake of health systems research synthesis to inform policy- and decision-making.

The presentation will be interactive, including an opportunity for questions and comments from participants after interventions by the presenters and decision-maker.

2) Break-out facilitated discussion (45 minutes)

The decision-maker will present policy challenges where input is required from evidence syntheses to inform health policy and strengthen health systems in LMIC settings. The policy and systems challenges presented by the decision-maker will serve as a basis to engage participants in a reflection on conducting and presenting reviews in ways that would facilitate their uptake in health policy and systems. This exchange of ideas will take place within breakdown facilitated discussion, outlined below.

Participants will be asked to reflect in small groups on the challenges identified by the policymaker. This exchange will be moderated by the facilitators who will prompt the group with various questions, including:

  • What are good ways to stimulate the collaboration between reviewers and end-users?
  • How to translate a policy issue into a reviewable question?
  • What are good approaches to selecting review methods to answer health policy and system questions?
  • How can we unpack and understand complexity and context-sensitivity in the field of health systems research synthesis?
  • What are some key successes in supporting capacities for the conduct and use of reviews in LMICs?
  • What are good practices in promoting the uptake of health systems research synthesis?

The five facilitators will coordinate the round table discussions and collate the key discussion points.

3) Feedback discussion and conclusion (15 minutes)

The last part of the session will be an opportunity for facilitators to revert back to the larger group and summarise the take-home messages from the round-table discussions. At this stage, the groups will share their reflections and recommendations on conducting and using health systems research to inform policy and systems decision-making.

Finally, the decision-maker will be asked to provide concluding remarks to reflect on how we can use these insights to improve real world evidence-informed-policymaking in LMICs. 


Target audience: 

Researchers and policymakers.

Type of session: 

In this session, participants will: 1) Discuss the challenges of using evidence synthesis to support health systems interventions and policies; 2) Discuss the relevance of conducting evidence synthesis in the field of health policy and systems research, using various synthesis approaches, perspectives and methods; 3) Learn from good practices and experiences from review centres supported by WHO Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research in conducting and fostering the uptake of review findings in LMIC contexts.

Other contributors:

Dayal H1, Sudhakar M2, Odendaal W3, El-Jardali F4, Lotfi T5, Moloi H3
1 Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, South Africa
2 Ethiopia Evidence Based Health Care Centre, Ethiopia
3 Health Systems Research Unit, South Africa
4 Center for Systematic Reviews of Health Policy and Systems Research (SPARK), Lebanon
5 Global Evidence Synthesis Initiative, Lebanon


Thursday 14 September 2017 - 14:00 to 15:30