Assessing the capacity of ministries of health to use research in decision-making: conceptual framework and tool
The capacity to demand and use research is critical for governments if they are to develop policies that are informed by evidence. Existing tools designed to assess how government officials use evidence in decision-making have significant limitations for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs); they are rarely tested in LMICs and focus only on individual capacity. This paper introduces an instrument that was developed to assess Ministry of Health (MoH) capacity to demand and use research evidence for decision-making, which was tested for reliability and validity in eight LMICs (Bangladesh, Fiji, India, Lebanon, Moldova, Pakistan, South Africa, Zambia).
Instrument development was based on a new conceptual framework that addresses individual, organisational and systems capacities, and items were drawn from existing instruments and a literature review. After initial item development and pre-testing to address face validity and item phrasing, the instrument was reduced to 54 items for further validation and item reduction. In-country study teams interviewed a systematic sample of 203 MoH officials. Exploratory factor analysis was used in addition to standard reliability and validity measures to further assess the items.
Thirty items divided between two factors representing organisational and individual capacity constructs were identified. South Africa and Zambia demonstrated the highest level of organisational capacity to use research, whereas Pakistan and Bangladesh were the lowest two. In contrast, individual capacity was highest in Pakistan, followed by South Africa, whereas Bangladesh and Lebanon were the lowest.
The framework and related instrument represent a new opportunity for MoHs to identify ways to understand and improve capacities to incorporate research evidence in decision-making, as well as to provide a basis for tracking change.