Enhancing evidence-informed health decision-making in Europe, Meeting Report (2016)



Reflecting the increasing demand and momentum for legitimate tools and processes to strengthen evidence-informed policy-making (EIP), the WHO Regional Office for Europe, together with Health Services Research Europe (HSR Europe) and the European Public Health Association (EUPHA) Sections on Health Services Research and Public Health Practice and Policy, organized a preconference event on EIP at the 8th European Public Health Conference on 14–15 October 2015. The event brought together a variety of key stakeholders for EIP across Europe to reflect on the accelerated roadmap developed by the WHO Regional Office for Europe to enhance EIP in the WHO European Region (referred to here as the EIP roadmap) and debate on means for EIP development. Proposed by the European Advisory Committee on Health Research and requested by the Member States in December 2014, the EIP roadmap is an initiative aimed at coordinating and enhancing overall capacity for EIP in the WHO European Region. Building on the EIP roadmap, an Action Plan and Resolution on enhancing EIP in the WHO European Region are under preparation.

The event was an opportunity to reflect on the EIP roadmap and on how the development of the Action Plan for EIP can incorporate theoretical and practical state of the art in the field. There was awareness that striking a balance between theoretical complexity and practical applicability of EIP initiatives is challenging but indispensable. As such, there is a need to shift to a paradigm of coproduction of knowledge in EIP, renouncing an a priori separation of science and policy as separate domains. This paradigm highlights the fact that the boundaries between science and policy need to be managed: that is clearly separated as well as coordinated by neutral spaces for knowledge brokerage.

Some useful tools for EIP from the perspective of coproduction are proposed through the Evidence-informed Policy Network in Europe (EVIPNet Europe). EVIPNet Europe's methodologies include situational analyses and stakeholder consultations as key for developing buy-in for EIP. EVIPNet emphasizes that creating contacts between different stakeholders is as important as written evidence briefs for policy. In order to coordinate the utilization of these tools, EVIPNet supports the establishment of country teams, also known as knowledge translation platforms (KTPs), that are intended to function as national advisory bodies applying innovative knowledge translation (KT) tools and fostering engagement of diverse stakeholders (e.g. researchers, policy-makers, civil society) in health policy-making. EVIPNet and other WHO Regional Office for Europe initiatives supporting EIP (e.g. the European Health Information Initiative and the Health Evidence Network) are all key for the implementation of the European Health 2020 policy framework.

Although the nature of EIP is complex and contested, stakeholders attending and organizing the European Public Health preconference event shared a common vision that evidence should inform policy and that tools for EIP are needed. The current event contributed to creating and strengthening informal communities for EIP across the European Region. The further development of the WHO Regional Office for Europe's Action Plan for EIP could be an important tool through which this common vision can be put into practice, by supporting structured implementation of EIP efforts.