Evidence-informed policy making at country level: lessons learned from the South African Tuberculosis Think Tank.

White, RG; Charalambous, S; Cardenas, V; Hippner, P; Sumner, T; Bozzani, F; Mudzengi, D; Houben, RMGJ; Collier, D; Kimerling, ME; Vassall, A; Pillay, Y; Churchyard, G; (2018) Evidence-informed policy making at country level: lessons learned from the South African Tuberculosis Think Tank. The international journal of tuberculosis and lung disease, 22 (6). pp. 606-613. ISSN 1027-3719 DOI: https://doi.org/10.5588/ijtld.17.0485

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National Tuberculosis Programmes (NTPs) require specialist input to support the development of policy and practice informed by evidence, typically against tight deadlines. To describe lessons learned from establishing a dedicated tuberculosis (TB) think tank to advise the South African NTP on TB policy. A national TB think tank was established to advise the NTP in support of evidence-informed policy. Support was provided for activities, including meetings, modelling and regular telephone calls, with a wider network of unpaid expert advisers under an executive committee and working groups. Intervention evaluation used desktop analysis of documentary evidence, interviews and direct observation. The TB Think Tank evolved over time to acquire three key roles: an 'institution', a 'policy dialogue forum' and an 'interface'. Although enthusiasm was high, motivating participation among the NTP and external experts proved challenging. Motivation of working groups was most successful when aligned to a specific need for NTP decision making. Despite challenges, the TB Think Tank contributed to South Africa's first ever TB and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) investment case, and the decision to create South Africa's first ever ring-fenced grant for TB. The TB Think Tank also assisted the NTP in formulating strategy to accelerate progress towards reaching World Health Organization targets. With partners, the TB Think Tank achieved major successes in supporting evidence-informed decision making, and garnered increased funding for TB in South Africa. Identifying ways to increase the involvement of NTP staff and other experts, and keeping the scope of the Think Tank well defined, could facilitate greater impact. Think tank initiatives could be replicated in other settings to support evidence-informed policy making.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Infectious Disease Epidemiology
Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Global Health and Development
Research Centre: TB Centre
PubMed ID: 29862943
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/4647943

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