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Enhancing the Performance of Knowledge Brokers: Implications for Public Health

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The use of scientific findings in the development of health policy is a critical element of disease prevention and health promotion. Nonetheless, a well-established body of public health research has determined that scientific knowledge continues to inadequately inform and guide health-impacting decisions. Due to a lack of organizational evidence-informed-decision-making (EIDM), policies and practices, on average, do not sufficiently protect the health of workers exposed to occupational health hazards, such as respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Workers are commonly overexposed to RCS and consequently experience unacceptably high health risk levels. While the concept of Knowledge Translation (KT) has made some progress transferring risk-mitigating knowledge into organizational practice, research use remains unsatisfactory. Poor organizational research implementation is associated with pervasive KT barriers that impede the flow of knowledge from knowledge producers to knowledge users. Within an occupational context, KT barriers create gaps in what has been identified as the Occupational Health and Safety Knowledge-to-Action Process. In an effort to bride knowledge-to action gaps, the use of Knowledge Brokers has recently gained much traction. Through the use of engaging, interactive strategies that meaningfully convey messages, Kbs can attenuate KT barriers and prompt behaviour change in the form of increased EIDM. Due to a lack of Kb educational and performance standards however, many Kbs are ill equip to conduct effective KT. Supporting the Promotion of Activated Research and Knowledge (SPARK) is an evidence-informed intervention aimed to improve Kb KT capacity through a KT skills training program. To assess KT knowledge and skill acquisition a process evaluation was conducted. Evaluation results revealed that Kb KT skills can be enhanced. While thorough program efficacy has yet to be tested, evaluation findings are believed to be the first step in understanding the illness prevention and health promoting potential of this intervention. Based on the need to mitigate occupational health risks, and prospects of promising evaluation results, it is believed that KT training should be applied to Kbs within the Occupational Health and Safety Knowledge-to-Action Process, specifically WorkSafe BC Prevention Officers. It is believed that the occupational public health implications of well-trained, KT-capable Kbs can significantly reduce health risks among workers exposed to occupational health hazards and pave the way for increased organizational EIDM.
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