Paying it forward in Evidence Informed Decision Making

Cape Town | The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) is showcasing its efforts in providing evidence that will inform decision making for policy makers and healthcare decision makers at the Evidence 2018 Conference.

Held at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Conference has brought together academics and researchers, practitioners and policy-makers from universities, NGOs, government and the private sector to share ideas until the 28th September 2018.

The SAMRC’s Health System’s Research Unit (HSRU) and Cochrane South Africa are presenting and hosting workshops on Evidence Informed Decision Making (EIDM) as well as sharing their contributions in impacting on healthcare policy and decision making.

The HSRU currently hosts five unique projects dedicated to providing strategies on improving the South African healthcare system. One of these projects showed the effectiveness of the South African prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV treatment and has impacted on national policy. Repeat HIV testing for HIV negative women as well as three-monthly testing of babies into post-delivery period and at delivery has now been introduced by the National Department of Health. An HSRU study also showed an investment case for community healthcare workers, establishing that community-based maternal new born care can be delivered at less than $1 per person. This research also shows that interventions by community health workers in community treatment could decrease deaths to under 200 000 over ten years.

More recently, a systematic review by the HSRU showed that school-based condom availability programmes can help to prevent unintended pregnancies, HIV and sexually transmitted infections among adolescents.

It found that students in schools with condom availability programmes were more likely to obtain and use condoms, when compared with schools without them.  The conclusions made in this review have influenced policy in the USA, resulting in several high schools in some counties implementing condom availability programmes in order to curb the rise in sexually transmitted infections among students.

“We hope that this review will also influence education officials to put in place school condom availability programmes in South African schools as was done in some schools in the USA,” says Dr Catherine Mathews, Unit Director at the SAMRC’s Health Systems Research Unit and co-author of the systematic review. “Ultimately, our research seeks to better understand healthcare systems and improve the impact of health systems in advancing lives.”

The SAMRC also hosts and funds Cochrane South Africa, an organisation that prepares and disseminates systematic reviews on what works and what doesn’t in healthcare. Evidence from Cochrane Reviews is used by guideline developers and healthcare decision makers globally.

In 2017, The SAMRC funded an operational licence for access to the Cochrane Library allowing healthcare workers, researchers, students and the general public free access to evidence-based Cochrane Reviews. This licence is the first to be procured outside of Western Europe, North America and Australia.

“This licence means that healthcare practitioners have sustained access to reliable and unbiased Cochrane Reviews in order to apply well-informed decisions at the point of care to deliver quality healthcare to patients”, says Cochrane South Africa Director, Professor Charles Wiysonge.  “We also know that systematic reviews of the evidence, such as those produced by Cochrane, can guide decision makers in the development of policies and clinical practice guidelines.” 

The national Cochrane Library licence, which commenced in June 2017, has recently been renewed and access to the library has increased substantially. Between June 2017 and June 2018 full-text downloads increased from 31 549 to 51 089 - an increase of over 60%.

The SAMRC will be exhibiting its work at the CSIR ICC Foyer at Evidence 2018.


Find out more about the SAMRC at Evidence 2018 by following us on Twitter: @MRCza, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Release date: 
Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - 09:20
Keletso Ratsela
Contact: Keletso Ratsela

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Tel: +27 71 214 5272