How far can systematic reviews inform policy development for "wicked' rural health service problems?
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Policy makers and researchers increasingly look to systematic reviews as a means of connecting research and evidence more effectively with policy. Based on Australian research into rural and remote primary health care services, we note some concerns regarding the suitability of systematic review methods when applied to such settings. It suggests that rural and other health services are highly complex and researching them is akin to dealing with "wicked" problems. It proposes that the notion of "wicked" problems may inform our understanding of the issues and our choice of appropriate methods to inform health service policy. Key issues including the complexity of health services, methodological limitations of traditional reviews, the nature of materials under review, and the importance of the service context are highlighted. These indicate the need for broader approaches to capturing relevant evidence. Sustained, collaborative synthesis in which complexity, ambiguity and context is acknowledged is proposed as a way of addressing the wicked nature of these issues.
Australian Health Review
Health and Community Services