This talk will address the relationship between evidence and the development of health policy. It will focus particularly on epidemiological evidence (both observational and experimental), and the evolution of public health and social policies. In the UK, as in many other countries, there has been a political culture espousing the importance of basing policies on evidence, and of understanding ‘what works’, for a decade or more. However numerous policies and programmes have been recommended or implemented without being based on ‘evidence’ as epidemiologists would understand it, and without any explicit intention of evaluating the effectiveness of these policies and programmes. This talk will discuss some of the barriers to and facilitators of evidence-informed policy-making, and argue for a more sophisticated form of knowledge exchange between researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and politicians.
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