Knowledge translation in Africa: are the structures in place?

Implement Sci Commun. 2020 Dec 11;1(1):111. doi: 10.1186/s43058-020-00101-w.


Background: Contextualised evidence to generate local solutions on the progressive path to universal health coverage is essential. However, this evidence must be translated into action. Knowledge translation (KT) experts have highlighted the plausible mechanisms to foster the uptake of evidence. The objective of this study was to assess the extent to which structures are in place to boost uptake of evidence, in countries of the WHO African Region.

Methods: Employing a cross-sectional survey, we collected data on the availability of structures to foster the uptake of evidence into policy in 35 out of the 47 member states of the WHO African Region. Data were analysed using a simple counting of the presence or absence of such structures.

Results: Less than half of the countries had evidence collation and synthesis mechanisms. The lack of such mechanisms presents a missed opportunity to identify comprehensive solutions that can respond to health sector challenges. Close to 50% of the countries had KT platforms in place. However, the availability of these was in several forms, as an institution-based platform, as an annual event to disseminate evidence and as a series of conferences at the national level. In some countries, KT was mainstreamed into routine health sector performance review processes. Several challenges impacted the functionality of the KT platforms including inadequate funding and lack of dedicated personnel. Regarding dissemination of evidence, sharing reports, scientific publications and one-off presentations in meetings were the main approaches employed.

Conclusion: The availability of KT platforms in the WHO African countries can be described as at best and non-existent at the worst. The current structures, where these exist, cannot adequately foster KT. Knowledge translation platforms need to be viewed as sector-wide platforms and mainstreamed in routine health sector performance reviews and policymaking processes. Funds for their functionality must be planned for as part of the health sector budget. Dissemination of evidence needs to be viewed differently to embrace the concept of "disseminate for impact". Further, funding for dissemination activities needs to be planned for as part of the evidence generation plan.

Keywords: Decision-making; Health sector; Knowledge translation; Policy development; Uptake of evidence.

Publication types

  • Letter