Comparative analysis of country-level enablers, barriers and recommendations to strengthen institutional capacity for evidence uptake in decision-making

Meike J. Schleiff, Alice Kuan, Abdul Ghaffar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Evidence-based decision-making is crucial to leadership in the health sector to identify country-level priorities and generate solutions supported by rigorous research. Barriers and enablers have been explored, but limited evidence about what works to strengthening capacity at individual and institutional levels within countries has been reported, and inconsistent use of evidence to inform policy-making is a persistent challenge and concern. Methods: We conducted a framework analysis comparing experiences of nine purposively selected countries (Chile, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Sri Lanka). We utilised qualitative case studies developed by in-country teams to explore enablers and barriers described across components of a predefined theory of change and then identified six cross-cutting themes and recommendations for relevant stakeholders associated with each theme. Results: The cross-cutting themes included (1) leadership and political will, (2) incentives and resources, (3) infrastructure and access to health data, (4) designated structures and processes, (5) interaction and relationships, and (6) capacity strengthening and engagement. While each case country's context and experience was different, common enablers and barriers surfaced across each of these themes, with Ministries of Health and other government agencies having strong roles to play, but also recognising the need for other stakeholders, including researchers, donors and civil society, to serve as essential collaborators in order to strengthen evidence uptake. Substantial and sustained investment in research capacities, able leaders and stronger engagement of civil servants are needed to further this progress and strengthen processes of health decision-making. Conclusions: All countries represented in this study have made commendable progress in increasing evidence uptake and strengthening supportive systems. Establishing and strengthening necessary structures and the relationships that underpin them takes time as well as resources. Going forward, the findings from this study can help guide and support advocacy to increase domestic funding for health research, especially health policy and systems research, and ensure that civil servants as well as researchers have the capacity and support to collaborate and continue to bolster evidence uptake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number78
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 9 2020


  • Evidence uptake
  • capacity strengthening
  • health policy and systems research
  • research to practice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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