Symposium: The WHO evidence-informed guideline development process

Implications for vitamin and mineral research priorities

In collaboration with the Micronutrient Initiative
Experimental Biology (EB) 2013
American Society for Nutrition’s (ASN) Scientific Sessions
20 April 2013, 15:00- 17:00 EST, Boston, MA, United States of America

Demands for evidence-informed guidelines on interventions with vitamins and minerals have been voiced in recent years by the scientific community as well as national and global program implementers and policy makers. As part of the World Health Organization’s prime responsibility towards the Member States and authority to provide leadership on matters critical to international health it has taken pivotal role in developing these guidelines using the best available scientific evidence globally.

A complex and meticulous system of gathering and synthesizing evidence through systematic reviews and use of Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) method adds strength to the nine-step guideline development process. Supervised and guided by the WHO Steering Committee of Nutrition Guideline Development, a guidelines development group advises WHO on the critical questions.

The scope of the recommendations, the quality of available evidence and its interpretation, as well as on their values and preferences, feasibility of implementation, considerations for costs, the balance between the potential harms and benefits and the time frame when the recommendations should be revised and updated. In some instances, the lack of adequacy and specificity of available evidence, however, poses limitations for the formulation of recommendations that have to be interpreted and applied in diverse contexts.

The guideline development process itself identifies many research gaps related to all types of evidence needs (epidemiology and determinants of the problem, efficacy and effectiveness of interventions and questions related to implementation). The scientific community could support this process by developing with other stakeholders, research agendas that prioritize filling these evidence gaps. This symposium will create a space for dialogue among those with contextual and program knowledge in diverse settings and those with research know how and an in-depth understanding of the biology of nutrition and health.

The symposium is structured to provide a summary of the guideline development process, critical analyses of the adequacy of available evidence to support the process, discuss the implications of the gaps in evidence identified for priority setting and research agenda development, and identify mechanisms to better inform the policy and programs guidance and how policy and program may guide the development and prioritization of research agendas. Five nutrition experts will briefly speak on the specific objectives of the symposium to initiate the discussion and leave ample time for the audience to interact.

The objective of this symposium are to:

  • Understand the WHO evidence-informed guideline development process, highlighting where evidence from research of all types is needed to guide the process.
  • Understand the extent to which available evidence fulfill the needs of the guideline development process.
  • Reflect on mechanisms by which policy and program guidance could be better informed by evidence and how priorities for research may be better informed by policy and program needs