The Role of Embedded Research in Co-producing Public Health Knowledge in Non-clinical Settings to Bridge the Gap Between Research Evidence and Its Implementation in Public Health Practice

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Background
The gap between research-based evidence and its implementation in public health practice is globally recognised. This gap can cause the resources invested in public health research to be wasted. It can also have a negative impact on the quality of public health services and the health and well-being of the population. A toolkit is a set of tools kept together in a certain place for a specific purpose (Soanes et al., 2006). Research has identified that embedded research has the potential to bridge the ‘research-based evidence implementation gap’. However, there is presently no embedded research toolkit to inform public health practice in non-clinical settings of the role of embedded research which could bridge the ‘research-based evidence implementation gap’. Therefore, the development of an embedded research toolkit will be useful to public health practitioners and embedded researchers to improve services and delivery.
Aim
The overall aims of this PhD are: 1) to investigate the potential of embedded research in bridging the gap between research evidence and its implementation in public health practice. 2) to develop a toolkit on the role of embedded research in the co-production of public health knowledge in non-clinical settings to facilitate the utilisation of research evidence in public health practice.
Methods
To achieve the overall aims, hence the following workstreams:
1) A literature review was undertaken to be informed of the existing literature and identify the gap in the literature around the role of embedded research in co-producing public health knowledge in non-clinical settings.
2) A systematic review identified and synthesised available qualitative evidence on the topic.
3) Semi-structured interviews were conducted with embedded researchers, public health practitioners, and other stakeholders to explore the themes that emerged from the systematic review on the topic.
4) The triangulation of findings informed the development of an embedded research toolkit on the topic.5) The embedded research toolkit was cross-checked to know its relevance and usefulness in public health practice with some interview participants.
Results
The systematic review synthesised 16 qualitative articles, that focused on the role of embedded research in co-producing public health knowledge in non-clinical settings. The main roles of embedded research were informing practice, building mutually beneficial relationships, building capacity, becoming part of the organisation, critical reflection, and managing funds allocated to the research and providing evidence for reports and future funding applications.
Evidence from the systematic review shows that the above roles can assist embedded researchers to bridge the gap between research evidence and its implementation in public health practice.
Seventeen interviews with embedded researchers, public health practitioners, and other stakeholders were conducted in four case studies sites including two local authorities, one secondary school, and one sports organisation. Case studies that involve a detailed and in-depth examination of some particular cases were adopted.
Four themes were identified: 1) building and maintaining relationships with practitioners and other stakeholders, 2) working together to produce research, 3) informing and developing future practice and research, and 4) keeping critical reflection trajectory.
The triangulation of these findings informed the development of an embedded research toolkit that can be used to inform practice of the role of embedded research in bridging the gap between research evidence and its implementation in public health practice.
Conclusions
As there was no embedded research toolkit on the role of embedded research in non-clinical settings, its development will be useful to public health practitioners and embedded researchers with the following expected outcomes.
• That the public health practitioners in non-healthcare settings use the toolkit as a guide to improve service and delivery• That more public health practitioners and academics would be informed of the potential of embedded research in bridging the gap between research evidence and its implementation in practice.
• That more organisations and more researchers would consider adopting an embedded research approach.
• That the toolkit would serve as a guide for public health practitioners on job specifications when recruiting embedded researchers.
Date of Award6 May 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorMandy Cheetham (Supervisor), Dorothy Newbury-Birch (Supervisor) & Stephanie Kilinc (Supervisor)

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