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In a recent edition of the Journal of Health Communication the main theme was Web 2.0 and Health Communication. Among the articles was one that particular caught my attention: Dissemination 2.0: Closing the Gap Between Knowledge and Practice With New Media and Marketing. (Link to abstract on pubmed).

It is in no way a revolutionary article, but what I like about it is that it in quite simple terms tries to point out how different technologies of web 2.0 can be of use in making evidence-based research take of from the researchers desk and be not only be  shared and distributed, but also turned into practice in a world of public health. Which is I assume the ultimate goal of any researcher in public health sciences, medicine etc.

The authors take their starting point in the following:

“Significant advancements in clinical and public health research have generated an abundance of knowledge regarding evidence-based clinical and community-based interventions. However, the translation of research findings into everyday practice by clinicians and public health practitioners remains suboptimal. An abundance of evidence demonstrates that patients receive few recommended evidence-based clinical services (Lenfant, 2003; Woolf, 2008), and less than half of recommended community-based prevention strategies are widely implemented in practice (Glasgow & Emmons, 2007)”

Using what the authors discribe as the four most prominent strategies used to promote dissemination and implementation of research evidence in practice, they try to show how each strategy can benefit from various Web 2.0 and social media technologies in enhancing research dissemination and ensure that evidence-based research products reach the intended end users and are implemented in clinical practice.

The authors do in no way disregard traditional strategies for dissemination of evidence-based programs and services. Peer-reviewed journals, conference presentations etc. are and will continue to be important. But perhaps there is a new dimension to find in web 2.0:

“We believe that the interactivity, deep user engagement and multidirectional information exchange of Web 2.0 information tools can enhance the dissemination of research evidence among intended users and thus facilitate the translation of scientific evidence for effective programs and services into everyday practice.

The structure of the article is actually well illustrated by the figure below, taken from the article. The authors go through the four dissemination strategies, which are linked to different steps in the research process and highlights for each of them how things such as Wikis, blogs, tweets etc. can contribute to successful dissemination and implementation.

From Jay M. Bernhardt, Darren Mays & Matthew W. Kreuter (2011): Dissemination 2.0: Closing the Gap Between Knowledge and Practice With New Media and Marketing, Journal of Health Communication, 16:sup1, 32-44

By going through the four strategies and applying different currently existing technologies, the authors suggest that multiple media platforms can:

  • Help increase scientists’ dissemination efforts by supporting the capturing and sharing of research findings.
  • Packaging, smart tagging, and search engine optimization of resources focusing on evidence-based interventions and practices can make a different in making the research findings easier to both find and to implement.
  • They argue for how creating and linking social networks of researchers and practitioners with multidirectional informationflow can build stronger partnerships for dissemination.
  • They show how analyzing social media data about targeted practitioner end users’ behaviors and practices online can inform strategies for increasing practitioner demand for evidence-based programs and for ensuring easy access to research products.
  • They advocate for training of all professionals involved in research and practice on using Web 2.0 and social media tools, particularly in regard to how these tools can be applied to enhance the dissemination of research findings to practitioner audiences.

In their conclusions Berhardt and his colleagues argues that regardless of whether we are sceptical towards the technologies of web 2.0 or not it is something that is here to stay:

“The revolution in information and communication technology has already  fundamentally transformed fields such as banking and entertainment; therefore, it is just a matter of time until the health and medical fields are dramatically affected. These technologies, including Web 2.0 participatory applications and social media, are rapidly affecting health care consumers and have spawned a generation of e-patients who are more empowered and engaged in their care than ever before.”

It is difficult to disagree strongly with this.