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The unbearable lightness of healthcare policy making: a description of a process aimed at giving it some weight
  1. I B Scheel1,
  2. K B Hagen1,
  3. A D Oxman2
  1. 1Department of Social Services Research, Norwegian Directorate for Health and Social Affairs, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2Department of Health Services Research, Norwegian Directorate for Health and Social Affairs
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr I B Scheel, Department of Social Services Research, Norwegian Directorate for Health and Social Affairs, PO Box 8054 Dep N-0031 Oslo, Norway; 


Objectives: To investigate whether a structured process to involve policy makers in designing a research project on a return to work insurance policy would yield evidence that was relevant, useful, and used in policy decisions.

Study design: Case study.

Setting: Norway.

Participants: Two researchers from the National Institute of Public Health and four representatives from respectively the National Insurance Administration, Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry, and Norwegian Medical Association.

Intervention: Structured discussions of the research, including the objectives, interventions, design, and interpretation of the results.

Results: The participants succeeded in designing and completing a cluster randomised controlled trial through the participatory process. Intermediary results from the trial have been used in practical planning within the National Insurance Administration, but there are few indications that the main results of the trial have been used.

Conclusions: This approach of involving policy makers in the research planning process when political or organisational values are at stake did not succeed in this case. The salient explanations for this are conflicting interests of the organisations involved in the process and the research findings were in conflict with those interests.

  • evidence based policy

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  • The views expressed in this paper do not necessarily represent the views of the Norwegian Directorate for Health and Social Services.

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