Conducting rapid reviews for health policy makers during the pandemic in an evolving evidence ecosystem: New synthesis methods and dissemination plans
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National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools Canada
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1870
Background and Objective:
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, public health decision makers’ need to easily access high-quality synthesized evidence for policy and programming decisions remains paramount. In response, the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools (NCCMT) developed the Rapid Evidence Service (RES). The RES synthesizes the best available evidence on priority COVID-19 public health questions.

Our process involves: developing focused questions; conducting a search; screening; critically appraising evidence using validated tools; summarizing key findings; GRADE-ing the evidence; and synthesizing the findings into a final report. The summary includes the certainty of the findings and an overview of knowledge gaps. Evaluation on the uptake, use and impact of the RES rapid reviews on public health decisions at regional and national levels in Canada is also conducted. Evaluation findings are synthesized with findings from a parallel study by partners at the Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI) Evidence Review Service in Australia to inform improvements to the reach, usefulness and accessibility of rapid reviews.

We have conducted 80 rapid reviews since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to update reviews as new evidence emerges through both updates and maintaining living rapid reviews. Our reviews and review updates are proactive and responsive to the current public health climate. We have answered questions from and worked collaboratively with regional, national, and international organizations. Webpage analytics demonstrate the impact of the RES; reviews are highly accessed across Canada and supported by positive feedback from users.

Our rapid review process is a real-world example of how review-level evidence can be mobilized rapidly and rigorously in response to decision-makers’ needs. These evidence syntheses can be used by public health decision-makers at all levels of governance as they plan for pandemic recovery.