Supporting COVID-19 Decision Making through Rapid Evidence Syntheses and Products
Background: The explosion of COVID-19 research literature resulted in public health decision-makers’ need for high-quality synthesized evidence to inform policy and practice decisions. The National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools (NCCMT) responded quickly to the volume and variable quality of COVID-19 literature by creating the Rapid Evidence Service (RES) and the Repository of Public Health Evidence Syntheses (the Repository).
Objectives: The RES and the Repository support decision makers to engage in evidence-informed decision making and increase awareness of synthesized evidence on COVID-19.
Methods: The RES process includes refining the research question, developing a search strategy, appraisal of included studies, and writing a high-level synthesis of all findings, including identification of knowledge gaps. It includes rapid reviews completed by the NCCMT that synthesize evidence on priority COVID-19 public health topics for public health decision-makers. The Repository was created to reduce duplication in syntheses being conducted to inform the COVID-19 public health response. Dissemination of the RES and the Repository is done through the NCCMT website, social media, and monthly newsletters.
Results: Since May 2020, 88 rapid reviews on 46 unique topics addressing priority public health questions have been completed. The Repository has received over 542 review submissions from public health organizations and research groups across Canada and internationally. Our process has evolved to ensure feasibility, accuracy, and efficiency as the pandemic and the evidence has evolved. More recently the RES has been expanded to address topics beyond COVID-19 to support public health recovery.
Conclusions: The rapid review process is a real-world example of how evidence can be mobilized quickly in response to decision-makers’ needs and users have indicated the RES and the Repository are invaluable resources. By expanding the RES and the Repository to address public health priority areas beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, these resources can continue to be used by public health decision-makers at all levels of governance.
Patient, public and/or healthcare consumer involvement: The RES has answered questions from and worked collaboratively with regional, national, and international organizations. The Repository allows public health organizations across jurisdictions to share resources for synthesizing evidence on COVID-19 to support response efforts.