INTRODUCTION: Meeting the health-related Millennium Development Goals in Africa calls for better access to and higher utilisation of quality evidence. The mechanisms through which research evidence can effectively guide public health policy and implementation of health programmes are not fully understood. Challenges to the use of evidence to inform policy and practice include the lack of a common understanding of what constitutes evidence and limited insight on the effectiveness of different research uptake activities. Available Knowledge Translation (KT) models have mainly been developed in high income countries and may not be directly applicable in resource-limited settings. In this study we examine the uptake of evidence in public health policy making in Uganda.
METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional qualitative study consisting of in-depth interviews with 17 purposively-selected health policy makers and researchers. The study explored respondents' perceptions of the role of evidence in public health policy development, their understanding of KT and their views on the appropriateness of different KT activities that are currently implemented in Uganda.
RESULTS: Although all respondents stated that evidence should inform health policies and programmes, they noted that this occurred infrequently. We noted a lack of conceptual clarity about KT and what precisely constitutes evidence. Respondents reported having been involved in different KT activities, including partnerships and platforms created for knowledge sharing between researchers and end users, but with very mixed results.
CONCLUSION: There is need for conceptual clarity on the notion of KT and an understanding of the most appropriate KT strategies in low-income settings.