Systematic reviews are often utilized as a rigorous way of summarizing the best available evidence on a topic. However, systematic literature reviews of health policy topics may not always be feasible, due to timelines and budget, or the most appropriate methodology depending on the topic. Instead, environmental scans of grey literature or expert opinions may provide key information for health policy topics.
While there are rigorous methodologies available for systematic reviews, there is a lack of established standards for other methodologies. As a result, a transparent and reproducible methods section is often lacking in health policy reports. To increase the validity of evidence-based health policy reports, rigorous and transparent methods should be reported to ensure appropriate decision-making.
6 key methodological questions that should be answered in every evidence-based health policy report:
- Clearly define your objective/research question
- Explain why you decided to examine that objective/question?
- How did you identify the evidence in the report?
- Detail search terms/phrases, sources/websites searched and dates of search
- How did you select the evidence included in the report?
- What were your inclusion and exclusion criteria?
- What information were you looking for to answer the objective/question?
- So readers can quickly identify the key outcomes of interest.
- How was the information/data analyzed and interpreted?
- The validity of the report is dependent on the appropriate and meaningful interpretation of findings!
- What are the limitations of your findings?
- Are there any concerns with the volume or quality of evidence included?