Strengthening Health Systems is a new international peer-reviewed open-access journal that aims to bridge the divides between academia, policy and implementation. The reason we think these divides need bridging derives from three often-repeated laments: the first is that academics commonly regret the low-level of usage of research findings by policy makers; second, is the fact that implementers, who do the physical work of strengthening systems, are frustrated by journals’ disinterest in papers based on their work; and, third, policy makers complain that published research doesn’t answer the right questions to help them make decisions, while the knowledge they need most often – implementation experience – is not routinely documented.
From these observations, we identified a gap: the health knowledge gap. It can be filled, but only by a concerted effort to capture and publish all the available knowledge about health systems, regardless of what type of organisation the authors come from.
What this means in practice is that we encourage non-academic authors to document their practical experience; select the academic papers for publication that will best guide policy decisions; and campaign for a more relevant research agenda that makes it easier for policy makers to find and use the information they need. This approach is sometimes tricky. It is no easy task to help non-academic authors who may never have read a paper to embrace the conventions of scientific reporting – and find the time. Neither is it natural for academic authors to shape their work with a “so what?” mindset from the start. Nor for policy makers to conduct literature searches before making decisions. But we strongly believe that better, more effective health system interventions and reforms depend on having a strong evidence base to guide decisions. And on facilitating the conversations that will make the use of this evidence routine – in policy, in programme design, and in research. This blog is our contribution to the conversation.
Editor, Strengthening Health Systems