Utility of qualitative research findings in evidence-based public health practice

Public Health Nurs. 2006 May-Jun;23(3):277-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1446.2006.230311.x.


Epidemiological data, derived from quantitative studies, provide important information about the causes, prevalence, risk correlates, treatment and prevention of diseases, and health issues at a population level. However, public health issues are complex in nature and quantitative research findings are insufficient to support practitioners and administrators in making evidence-informed decisions. Upshur's Synthetic Model of Evidence (2001) situates qualitative research findings as a credible source of evidence for public health practice. This article answers the following questions: (1) where does qualitative research fit within the paradigm of evidence-based practice and (2) how can qualitative research be used by public health professionals? Strategies for using qualitative research findings instrumentally, conceptually, and symbolically are identified by applying Estabrooks' (1999) conceptual structure of research utilization. Different research utilization strategies are illustrated through the use of research examples from the field of work on intimate partner violence against women. Recommendations for qualitative researchers disseminating findings and for public health practitioners/policy makers considering the use of qualitative findings as evidence to inform decisions are provided.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • Data Collection
  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / organization & administration*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Knowledge
  • Models, Organizational
  • Narration
  • Nursing Methodology Research / organization & administration*
  • Policy Making
  • Public Health Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Public Health Practice*
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Research Design / standards*
  • Symbolism