Academic, Political, and Community Engagement: Crafting Pandemic Preparedness Policies for Vulnerable Families

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To optimally support the health of families, interventions provided by community organizations must be evidence-based. Research attracts awareness to particular community issues; however, there is often a disconnect between research collection and subsequent translation into community-level policies. Evidence-based interventions may have proven efficiency, yet research rarely results in the political action necessary to translate interventions into community practices. When research does inform policies, and programs, the process can take decades. Implementation of evidence-based practices is necessary to mobilize research into practice and improve outcomes for families who rely on services. This project sought to identify the challenges community organizations face in accessing and providing evidence-based services, as these services promote optimal outcomes for families. COVID-19, as a focusing event, has highlighted pre-existing political, economic, and structural impediments to knowledge mobilization. The barriers and solutions proposed by participants in the research have pre-existed, but been exacerbated by, the context of a pandemic. Prior to conducting research, a literature review informed the need for increased support, communication, and funding for community organizations. The Nominal Group Technique (NGT) was used after the literature review was conducted to contextualize this need in Calgary. Five NGT groups were held over the course of two weeks to generate ideas surrounding barriers to evidence-based service provision throughout COVID-19, as well as solutions that have the potential to address aforementioned challenges. The three main barriers prioritized by participants included reduced revenue streams, transition to online service delivery, and inadequate communication and collaboration with government. Participants emphasized two solutions: person-centred policies and programs, and reciprocal collaboration. The literature and NGT groups result both support a need for cross-ministerial collaboration, community-based research partnerships, and engagement and consultation with community organizations. These findings are not novel or unique to COVID-19. Barriers mentioned preceded the pandemic, and solutions provided have continual impacts to support the health of families outside the context of a pandemic. Policy recommendations promote the priorities iterated by participants in the NGT groups. To address the barriers to evidence-based service provision throughout COVID-19, three policy options are recommended: (1) education and consultation with community organizations, (2) subsidy and grant provision for community-based research, and (3) formalizing a local network of researchers, community organizations, and policymakers. Next steps include validating the results of this study with an online Delphi and conducting a multijurisdictional environmental scan to determine best practices to support families with evidence-based service.
Kohek, J. A. (2020). Academic, Political, and Community Engagement: Crafting Pandemic Preparedness Policies for Vulnerable Families (Unpublished master's project). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.