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- Author or Editor: Mark Petticrew x
In public health, as in other fields, there has been much discussion about the type of evidence we need for decision making. In particular, there has been much debate about how the production of trials can be increased. However, this is not the only challenge and perhaps not even the main one. A better understanding is needed of why trials are not conducted, and what sort of evidence is used in their place. More generally, researchers need a better understanding of the ways in which other forms of evidence than trials are informative to decision makers.
How does regeneration affect health and how have successive urban policy evaluations sought to measure such impacts? This article draws on a systematic review of nationallevel evaluation documentation relating to government-funded, area-based regeneration initiatives in the UK since 1980. The review examined whether health impacts had been intended and, if so, how they had been measured. The process and difficulties of conducting the review raise significant questions about policy formulation and evaluation. Is evidence-based policy possible where evaluations are not stored centrally? In short, a model policy development as ‘enlightened’ or incremental is hard to sustain where a lack of systematic storage of data means that researchers, policy makers and practitioners may struggle to produce clear answers to important policy questions.
In the context of systematic reviews, statistical meta-analysis of findings is not always possible. Where this is the case, or where a review of implementation evidence is required, narrative synthesis of data is typically undertaken. Drawing on recently developed guidance aimed at those undertaking data synthesis – and information on the implementation of domestic smoke detectors – we present findings from a demonstration of the tools and techniques that can be used in a narrative synthesis. The work demonstrates how this process can be made more transparent, and suggests that using the tools and techniques can improve the quality of narrative synthesis.