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Implementation Science

, 11:162

First Online: 09 December 2016Received: 03 August 2016Accepted: 02 December 2016DOI: 10.1186-s13012-016-0530-3

Cite this article as: Petkovic, J., Welch, V., Jacob, M.H. et al. Implementation Sci 2016 11: 162. doi:10.1186-s13012-016-0530-3


BackgroundSystematic reviews are important for decision makers. They offer many potential benefits but are often written in technical language, are too long, and do not contain contextual details which make them hard to use for decision-making. There are many organizations that develop and disseminate derivative products, such as evidence summaries, from systematic reviews for different populations or subsets of decision makers. This systematic review aimed to 1 assess the effectiveness of evidence summaries on policymakers’ use of the evidence and 2 identify the most effective summary components for increasing policymakers’ use of the evidence. We present an overview of the available evidence on systematic review derivative products.

MethodsWe included studies of policymakers at all levels as well as health system managers. We included studies examining any type of -evidence summary,-policy brief,- or other products derived from systematic reviews that presented evidence in a summarized form. The primary outcomes were the 1 use of systematic review summaries in decision-making e.g., self-reported use of the evidence in policymaking and decision-making and 2 policymakers’ understanding, knowledge, and-or beliefs e.g., changes in knowledge scores about the topic included in the summary. We also assessed perceived relevance, credibility, usefulness, understandability, and desirability e.g., format of the summaries.

ResultsOur database search combined with our gray literature search yielded 10,113 references after removal of duplicates. From these, 54 were reviewed in full text, and we included six studies reported in seven papers as well as protocols from two ongoing studies. Two studies assessed the use of evidence summaries in decision-making and found little to no difference in effect. There was also little to no difference in effect for knowledge, understanding or beliefs four studies, and perceived usefulness or usability three studies. Summary of findings tables and graded entry summaries were perceived as slightly easier to understand compared to complete systematic reviews. Two studies assessed formatting changes and found that for summary of findings tables, certain elements, such as reporting study event rates and absolute differences, were preferred as well as avoiding the use of footnotes.

ConclusionsEvidence summaries are likely easier to understand than complete systematic reviews. However, their ability to increase the use of systematic review evidence in policymaking is unclear.

Trial registrationThe protocol was published in the journal Systematic Reviews 2015;4:122

KeywordsSystematic reviews Policymakers Evidence summaries Abbreviations3ieInternational Initiative for Impact Evaluation

CBAControlled before-after studies

CIHRCanadian Institutes of Health Research

COMMVACCommunicate to vaccinate

DfiDDepartment for International Development

GRADEGrading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation

ICCIntracluster correlation coefficient

ITSInterrupted time series

NGONon-governmental organization

NRCTNon-randomized controlled trial

RCTRandomized controlled trial

WHOWorld Health Organization

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-s13012-016-0530-3 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: Jennifer Petkovic - Vivian Welch - Maria Helena Jacob - Manosila Yoganathan - Ana Patricia Ayala - Heather Cunningham - Pe


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