Applied public health research - falling through the cracks?

Simmons, Rebecca K.; Ogilvie, David; Griffin, Simon J.; Sargeant, Lincoln A.
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p362
Academic Journal
Background: There is a degree of dissonance between the types of evaluative research required by organisations providing or commissioning health care, those recommended by organisations developing evidence-based guidance, and those which research funding bodies are prepared to support. Methods: We present a case study of efforts to establish a pragmatic but robust evaluation of local exercise referral schemes. We considered the epidemiological, ethical and practical advantages and disadvantages of a number of study designs and applied for research funding based on an uncontrolled design, outlining the difficulties of carrying out a randomised controlled trial to evaluate an existing service. Results: Our proposal was praised for its relevance and clear patient outcomes, but the application was twice rejected because both funders and reviewers insisted on a randomised controlled trial design, which we had found to be impractical, unacceptable to service users and potentially unethical. Conclusion: The case study highlights continuing challenges for applied public health research in the current funding climate.


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