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Utility of Qualitative Research Findings in Evidence-Based Public Health Practice

Authors



Susan Jack, HSC 2J30 School of Nursing, McMaster University, 1200 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8N 3Z5. E-mail: jacksm@mcmaster.ca

Abstract

ABSTRACT Epidemiological data, derived from quantitative studies, provide important information about the causes, prevalence, risk correlates, treatment and prevention of diseases, and health issues at a population level. However, public health issues are complex in nature and quantitative research findings are insufficient to support practitioners and administrators in making evidence-informed decisions. Upshur's Synthetic Model of Evidence (2001) situates qualitative research findings as a credible source of evidence for public health practice. This article answers the following questions: (1) where does qualitative research fit within the paradigm of evidence-based practice and (2) how can qualitative research be used by public health professionals? Strategies for using qualitative research findings instrumentally, conceptually, and symbolically are identified by applying Estabrooks' (1999) conceptual structure of research utilization. Different research utilization strategies are illustrated through the use of research examples from the field of work on intimate partner violence against women. Recommendations for qualitative researchers disseminating findings and for public health practitioners/policy makers considering the use of qualitative findings as evidence to inform decisions are provided.

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