A qualitative study to investigate the use of complex perspectives in policy evaluation in public health

Project Details


Several, complex public health problems, such as obesity, are failing to respond to current public health interventions 1 . A different approach is required to tackle such issues: complexity science offers a holistic approach involving a more comprehensive framework than traditional, reductionist methods 2 . Taking such an approach can offer insights and pointers towards interventions that may lead to effective, beneficial change. There is an increasing interest in elucidating how the application of complexity can help public health practice 3 and how to shift from theory to practical implementation of this approach 4-6 . There is a growing attention to the application of complexity in evaluation. Some authors suggest that the value of applying complexity to evaluation lies on its contribution with ‘sensitizing concepts’ and the implications for methods used in evaluation 7 . This project aims to investigate how complex perspectives are being used to conceptualise evaluations of public health policies and the methodological implications. As well as the barriers and opportunities which key stakeholders perceive.

Expected research contribution
This project contributes towards overcoming the communication difficulties among practitioners, commissioners of evaluations, policymakers, and academics studying the use and understanding of the application of complexity in evaluation of public health policies. It aims to advance in the standardisation of the terminology in order to facilitate a common and consistent understanding and ease communication and appraisal of complexity in evaluation among stakeholders. This project explores how complexity and its tenets are used to conceptualise evaluations of public health policies firstly. Secondly, it aims to offer further insight of the use and perception of the complexity perspective by key stakeholders through interviews. Thirdly, it aims to clarify the terminological confusion by defining and reaching certain consensus in the definition and use of terms in the application of complex perspectives to public health policy evaluation. And fourthly, it offers a practical example of the application of complexity perspectives to a particular public health policy evaluation.
Effective start/end date27/04/21 → …

IWETO expertise domain

  • B680-public-health


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