A key challenge for policymakers and researchers, is to determine whether research evidence about the impacts of an option are applicable to their setting. Assessments of the applicability of the findings of evidence and specifically a systematic review can take a lot of time to do well. Such assessments are critical, however, when an option is being proposed on the basis of a relevant high-quality systematic review.
Policymakers and other stakeholders need to know whether they can expect similar findings in their own settings. Unlike an assessment of the quality of a review, which can often be delegated to researchers, a local applicability assessment must be done by individuals with a very good understanding of on-the-ground realities and constraints, health system arrangements, and the baseline conditions in the specific setting. The assessment of local applicability is a domain in which policymakers and those who support them need to be actively engaged.
Policy briefs are a relatively new approach to packaging research evidence for policymakers and to supporting evidence-informed policy-making. The first step in a policy brief is to prioritise a policy issue. Once an issue is prioritised, the focus then turns to mobilising the full range of research evidence relevant to the various features of the issue.
Policy brief approach allows to use and assess research evidence to clarify a problem, to frame options to address a problem, to address how an option will be implemented, to take equity, resource use and costs and local context into consideration, to balance the pros and cons of policies and to deal with insufficient research evidence.