EVITA 2.0, an updated framework for understanding evidence-based mental health policy agenda-setting: tested and informed by key informant interviews in a multilevel comparative case study
Votruba N., Grant J., Thornicroft G.
Abstract Background Mental health remains a neglected issue on the global health policy agenda, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), and the translation of research evidence into policy and practice is slow. The new EVITA framework was developed to improve mental health evidence uptake and policy agenda-setting in LMICs. In addition, behavioural science methods may be able to support knowledge translation to policy. Methods Using a mixed-methods study design, we applied and tested the newly developed EVITA 1.1 framework against three case studies related to South Africa at the district, national and international levels. In-depth interviews with 26 experts were conducted between August and November 2019, transcribed, coded and analysed in NVivo, using iterative categorization. The data were analysed against both the EVITA framework and the MINDSPACE framework for behavioural insights. Results In our case study comparison, we found that (1) research translation to the policy agenda occurs in a complex, fluid system which includes multiple “research clouds”, “policy spheres” and other networks; (2) mental health research policy agenda-setting is based on key individuals and intermediaries and their interrelationships; and (3) key challenges and strategies for successful research to policy agenda impact are known, but are frequently not strategically implemented, such as including all stakeholders to overcome the policy implementation gap. Our data also suggest that behavioural science methods can be strategically applied to support knowledge translation to policy agenda-setting. Conclusion We found that the EVITA framework is useful for understanding and improving mental health research policy interrelationships to support evidence uptake to the policy agenda, and that behavioural science methods are effective support mechanisms. The revised EVITA 2.0 framework therefore includes behavioural insights, for improved mental health policy agenda-setting in LMICs. More research is needed to understand whether EVITA can be applied to other LMICs and to high-income contexts.