Background: A growing body of work on knowledge translation (KT) reveals significant gaps between what is known to improve health, and what is done to improve health. The literature and practice also suggest that KT has the potential to narrow those gaps, leading to more evidence-informed healthcare. In response, Canadian health research funders and agencies have made KT a priority. This article describes how one funding agency determined its KT role and in the process developed a model that other agencies could use when considering KT programs.
Discussion: While 'excellence' is an important criterion by which to evaluate and fund health research, it alone does not ensure relevance to societal health priorities. There is increased demand for return on investments in health research in the form of societal and health system benefits. Canadian health research funding agencies are responding to these demands by emphasizing relevance as a funding criterion and supporting researchers and research users to use the evidence generated.Based on recommendations from the literature, an environmental scan, broad circulation of an iterative discussion paper, and an expert working group process, our agency developed a plan to maximize our role in KT. Key to the process was development of a model comprising five key functional areas that together create the conditions for effective KT: advancing KT science; building KT capacity; managing KT projects; funding KT activities; and advocating for KT. Observations made during the planning process of relevance to the KT enterprise are: the importance of delineating KT and communications, and information and knowledge; determining responsibility for KT; supporting implementation and evaluation; and promoting the message that both research and KT take time to realize results.
Summary: Challenges exist in fulfilling expectations that research evidence results in beneficial impacts for society. However, health agencies are well placed to help maximize the use of evidence in health practice and policy. We propose five key functional areas of KT for health agencies, and encourage partnerships and discussion to advance the field.