Law & Governance

Law & Governance 5(4) August 2009 : 66-86

The Use of Research Evidence in Two International Organizations' Recommendations about Health Systems

Steven J. Hoffman, John N. Lavis and Sara Bennett


[This article was originally published in Healthcare Policy / Politiques de Santé, Volume 5, Number 1.]

Background: Little is known about the extent to which research evidence informs the development of recommendations by international organizations.

Methods: We identified specific World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank recommendations on five topics (contracting, healthcare financing, health human resources, tuberculosis control and tobacco control), catalogued the related systematic reviews and assessed the recommendations to determine their consistency with the systematic reviews that were available at the time of their formulation.

Findings: Only two of the eight publications examined were found to cite systematic reviews, and only five of 14 WHO and two of seven World Bank recommendations were consistent with both the direction and nature of effect claims from systematic reviews. Ten of 14 WHO and five of seven World Bank recommendations were consistent with the direction of effect claims only.

Conclusion: WHO and the World Bank - working with donor agencies and national governments - can improve their use of (or at least, their reporting about their use of) research evidence. Decision-makers and clinicians should critically evaluate the quality and local applicability of recommendations from any source, including international organizations, prior to their implementation.



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