Planning an Evidence-Informed Policy Workshop from the World Stage – a Student’s Experience Bringing an Idea into Fruition

As a student subcommittee member for the McMaster Health Forum, when I discovered that an evidence-informed policymaking workshop was being planned, I readily volunteered to act as a co-planner. As someone who plans to someday work in the Canadian health system, I have often found myself questioning the underlying foundations of policy. The workshop was an opportunity to not only explore these ideas and processes, but also to share them with the student community at McMaster.

Knowing that John Lavis, expert health researcher, World Health Organization advisor and Forum director would be involved was somewhat overwhelming. To know that the material within the workshop would be equivalent to what Lavis delivers to policymakers and stakeholders on the international stage, generated excitement and nervousness about the event. However, with the support of the forum’s knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, and the guidance of fellows and committee members, and most importantly, with the assistance of a co-planner, these feelings quickly abated.

As the workshop plans developed to include working with Health Systems Evidence, a free access point for high-quality evidence on the strengthening and reforming health systems, and multimedia resources in the form of video tutorials, I became increasingly excited. As planners we began to wonder who would be interested in this workshop. As the day approached, it was rapidly apparent that this event was gaining notice not only from health sciences students, but also from a diverse range of undergraduate and graduate programs; such as Arts & Science, MBA, medical and nursing programs. It was clear that evidence-informed policymaking is a concept and a system of practice that resonates within the University, representing much of what we learn here- the application of our knowledge in the best possible way.

Through the expert facilitation of Lavis and Forum assistant director Mike Wilson, students were guided to clarify the health system problem they wanted to explore, frame their options for addressing the problem and consider how to implement options for a prescription for change all the time using evidence based resources. The quality of resources and hands-on experiential approach were a welcome departure from being presented with slides and the engaging facilitation style of Lavis and Wilson supported a problem-based perspective. The interprofessional and diverse-faculty representation were conducive to the free exchange of ideas, as paired students worked through the prescribed steps, fully accessing the available resources. Listening to the questions that were developed, and the increasing insight that was gained in terms of evidence-informed policymaking and the utilization of Health Systems Evidence, the workshop was clearly a success.

The journey of following an idea through a functional workshop with world class knowledge and resources underlined the importance of collaboration and communication. This would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Health Forum staff and students. This workshop enriched my perspective on the subject of evidence-informed policymaking and in the exhilaration of community engagement and knowledge transfer. It is my sincere hope to move forward with all of the learning gained from this unique experience and continue to pursue my interest in policy.

By: Jennifer Nicholl, McMaster University Nursing Student Society representative on the McMaster Health Forum Student Subcommittee


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