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Open Access Highly Accessed Case report

Applying a Health Network approach to translate evidence-informed policy into practice: A review and case study on musculoskeletal health

Andrew M Briggs12*, Peter Bragge3, Helen Slater24, Madelynn Chan5 and Simon CB Towler12

Author affiliations

1 Department of Health, Government of Western Australia, GPO Box 8172, Perth Business Centre, WA, 6849, Australia

2 Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Australia

3 National Trauma Research Institute, The Alfred Hospital & Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

4 School of Physiotherapy, Curtin University, Perth, Australia

5 Department of Rheumatology, Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:394  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-394

Published: 14 November 2012

Abstract

Background

While translation of evidence into health policy and practice is recognised as critical to optimising health system performance and health-related outcomes for consumers, mechanisms to effectively achieve these goals are neither well understood, nor widely communicated. Health Networks represent a framework which offers a possible solution to this dilemma, particularly in light of emerging evidence regarding the importance of establishing relationships between stakeholders and identifying clinical leaders to drive evidence integration and translation into policy. This is particularly important for service delivery related to chronic diseases. In Western Australia (WA), disease and population-specific Health Networks are comprised of cross-discipline stakeholders who work collaboratively to develop evidence-informed policies and drive their implementation. Since establishment of the Health Networks in WA, over 50 evidence-informed Models of Care (MoCs) have been produced across 18 condition or population-focused Networks. The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the Health Network framework in facilitating the translation of evidence into policy and practice with a particular focus on musculoskeletal health.

Case presentation

A review of activities of the WA Musculoskeletal Health Network was undertaken, focussing on outcomes and the processes used to achieve them in the context of: development of policy, procurement of funding, stakeholder engagement, publications, and projects undertaken by the Network which aligned to implementation of MoCs.

The Musculoskeletal Health Network has developed four MoCs which reflect Australian National Health Priority Areas. Establishment of community-based services for consumers with musculoskeletal health conditions is a key recommendation from these MoCs. Through mapping barriers and enablers to policy implementation, working groups, led by local clinical leaders and supported by the broader Network and government officers, have undertaken a range of integrated projects, such as the establishment of a community-based, multidisciplinary rheumatology service. The success of these projects has been contingent on developing relationships between key stakeholders across the health system.

Conclusions

In WA, Networks have provided a sustainable mechanism to meaningfully engage consumers, carers, clinicians and other stakeholders; provided a forum to exchange ideas, information and evidence; and collaboratively plan and deliver evidence-based and contextually-appropriate health system improvements for consumers.

Keywords:
Policy; Network; Community of practice; Musculoskeletal; Translation; Evidence