Utilization of prevention research: searching for evidence.

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OBJECTIVE: Understanding the process of translating prevention research into practice calls for systematic efforts to assess the state of the published literature on the utilization of prevention research in public health programs and policy. This review describes the search strategy, methods, results, and challenges in identifying and reviewing literature relevant to this objective.

METHODS: Systematic searches of topics related to prevention research in literature published in 1995-2002 revealed 86 empiric articles in 12 public health areas.

RESULTS: A lack of uniform terminology, variation in publication sources, and limited descriptions of the stages of research utilization (e.g., adoption and implementation) in the published literature posed major challenges to identifying articles that met study criteria. Most accepted articles assessed the adoption or implementation of prevention research; four examined long-term sustainability. There was approximately equal distribution of reported research set in either health services or public health settings. Few of the articles contained search terms reflecting all four concept areas (prevention, public health, research, and use) targeted by the literature search.

CONCLUSIONS: Refining terms used in prevention research and research utilization could address lack of shared and unique definitions. Expanded reporting of research utilization stages in reports of prevention research could lead to improved literature searches and contribute to more successful adoption, implementation, and further use of prevention research products.