Evidence has played a central role in shaping COVID-19 responses all over the world. In Kenya, KWTRP is supporting the COVID-19 response by not only producing research evidence, but also by synthesizing existing and emerging evidence that could inform policy decisions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and actively engaging policy makers a county and national level. Our COVID-19 knowledge synthesis and translation work has centered on searching for, appraising and summarizing existing evidence in a systematic, transparent and accessible way. Prior to the pandemic, the programme had begun institutionalizing Evidence Informed Decision Making (EIDM) and started putting in place the systems and structures needed to synthesize evidence and promote evidence use in the country. COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to pursue these EIDM approaches to drive the closer relationship between the evidence world and the policy world while drawing on the trust and relationships that we have established with decision makers.
To ensure that evidence synthesis is relevant and responsive, our activities are founded on co-production with policy makers and rapid synthesis. On co-production, we formed an Evidence Synthesis Group which draws membership from the Ministry of Health’s research division and COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center (EOC), and the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust which allows us to co-produce evidence directly with decision makers while at the same time enhancing capacity for evidence synthesis within the Ministry of Health. Under this arrangement, the Evidence Synthesis Group holds regular meetings where policy questions that require evidence synthesis are proposed by the MOH, followed by synthesis activities that include the entire group. To ensure responsiveness in an environment that is fast changing and requiring quick decision making by policy makers, we have focused on producing rapid policy and evidence briefs (1 week turn- around) that are then disseminated to Ministry of Health decision makers.