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Year : 2005  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 224-235

Exploring the Evidence-Practice Gap: A Workshop Report on Mixed and Participatory Training for HIV Prevention in Southern Africa

1 Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, United Kingdom
2 Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education; St George's Hospital Medical School, University of London, London, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Ruth Stewart
Social Science Research Unit, 18 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0NR
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Background: The gap between what is known and what is done about public health (the evidence-practice gap) needs addressing. One solution may be through mixed and participatory training in accessing and appraising research. Approach: Residential workshops trained policy-makers, practitioners and researchers from seven southern-African countries in evidence-based decision-making for HIV prevention. They included training in accessing, critiquing and summarizing research, whilst remaining responsive to the priorities of the participants. Reflections: Drawing on the participants' feedback and our observations, we reflected on how these workshops may have addressed the evidence-practice gap. We identified three areas: access to research, understanding of research and the relevance of research. The workshops enabled a small group of people to access relevant research in a timely manner. However, more needs to be done to disseminate research findings appropriately as any long-term impact will be affected by the political and economic context in which participants work. We are confident that the participants went away with increased understanding of the purposes and processes of research, but for research to make a difference, the research community needs to emphasise more the publication of research findings written for potential users. The workshops were most successful in influencing researchers to consider bridging the evidence-practice gap by producing more relevant research, applicable to policy-makers and practitioners. Conclusion: This intensive intervention has the potential to reduce the evidence-practice gap for HIV prevention in southern Africa by training non-researchers to engage with research, whilst providing an opportunity for researchers to engage with policy-makers and practitioners.

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