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One of the interesting topics during the Global Forum on Research and Innovation for Health held in Manila (24-27 August) was about a proposed five-point guide on how to translate health research into actionable policy.

Mario Villaverde, associate dean of the Ateneo School of Government and a former Philippine health undersecretary, says the list is “no silver bullet but a good reminder” that translating research into policy is essential to build more trust between scientists and policymakers to bring development to those who need it most.

The guide’s main points: (1) collect and disaggregate data by geography and level of governance; (2) communicate findings using simple language; (3) present the findings within the policy agenda; (4) develop and implement policies based on evidence; and (5) monitor policy implementation.

The list underscores the importance of including governance and policy formulation in health research frameworks.

For example, the first step is important for decentralised governments such as the Philippines where officials of provinces, districts, cities and municipalities design the health agenda. Most national health surveys, says Villaverde, are difficult to integrate in local policy for lack of actionable local interventions.

Research uptake will not happen simply because research is supplied to policymakers. This linear approach operates under the assumption that policymakers are interested to adopt research findings and understand its fit within the local context simply by reading policy briefs.

Bringing research to policy formulation and adoption takes time — 10 to 20 years or more. And it goes beyond making research more understandable in terms of language.

One overlooked factor is the limited capacity of knowledge users (policymakers) to access and understand the findings.

Building partnerships between researchers and policymakers to draw common interests can address this gap, and promotes optimal use of time and budget.

Likewise, policymakers also need to educate themselves to see the value of research and its fit for local policy.

Both research content and community context should go together to create useful interventions.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.