Welcome to DrPHealth

Please leave comments and stimulate dialogue. For those wanting a bit more privacy or information, email drphealth@gmail.com. Comments will be posted unless they promote specific products or services, or contain inappropriate material or wording. Twitter @drphealth.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Qualitative research reaching new pinnacles

Thanks everyone.  This site continues to attract a consistent Canadian public health following.  Please help it grow by sharing the link with public health colleagues. 

Follow on Twitter @drphealth,  by  signing up for emails at the lower left, or click on the "following" on the lower right.

Please leave comments,  or email to drphealth at gmail.com  

Are you tired of the phrase “there is not enough evidence...”?   Especially when we “know” something is good and the research just hasn’t been formulated into a randomized double blinded controlled trial?   Great examples exist such as prenatal education, post natal visiting and supports, early childhood education and on and on... When the outcomes relate to full populations and not to sterile laboratory conditions the application of the rigour of evidence becomes diluted, and the conclusion is the “evidence is weak at best”.  

One could say that the Cochrane initiative has done a disservice to public health for failing to develop tools to synthesize “evidence” that is not readily subjected to the rigorous controlled trial methodologies.  Hence a 2012 tweet (about a 2008) paper caught our attention, about developing methodologies for systematically reviewing qualitative research Thematic synthesis of qualitative research .     

Qualitative methods, amongst other benefits,  tend to provide a more comprehensive identification of the issues that might be explored when reviewing a particular question.   By the very nature of the expectation, quantitative methods tend to focus on only one specific variable to determine its impact on the outcome.  For the purest in either research field the sense is sometimes that one should never let the other near as it is so different.   The reality is that we need to embrace both approaches and seek to use all the available information, so please get on the QualyQuanty boat.  In the simplest form, use the qualitative methods to identify the issues and questions that should be posed, and then take a comprehensive approach to reviewing each question as it relates to the quantitative evidence that is available – but where insufficient evidence exists an explicit statement on what is known and what is not known is required.  

The fields of systematic reviews and evidence based medicine need to step to the plate and provide such leadership in undertaking comprehensive knowledge synthesis that defines parameters that should be evaluated, not just look at what was researched.

And may the phrase “there is not enough evidence...” be banned from use in policy documents and research alike.  Its use is akin to a form of population health malpractice. Too often it has been interpreted as ‘what evidence exists does not support' a particular action, and that is a whole different conclusion.  Too many programs and interventions have withered to the phrase and with it, the health benefit such activities seem to have been providing.  

No comments:

Post a Comment