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Using rapid reviews to strengthen health policy and systems and progress towards universal health coverage
  1. Etienne V Langlois1,
  2. Sharon E Straus2,3,
  3. Jesmin Antony3,
  4. Valerie J King4,
  5. Andrea C Tricco3,5
  1. 1Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  2. 2Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  3. 3Knowledge Translation Program, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Canada
  4. 4Department of Family Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA
  5. 5Epidemiology Division, University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Toronto, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Etienne V Langlois; langloise{at}who.int

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Summary box

  • Progress towards universal health coverage should be informed by timely evidence on the effectiveness of health systems interventions, how and in what settings these interventions work, their cost-effectiveness, and the legal, ethical and societal implications of implementing these interventions.

  • Rapid reviews have emerged as an efficient approach to producing relevant and contextualised evidence often arising from requests by decision-makers, thus enhancing their applicability for health policy and systems decision-making.

  • Various mechanisms exist to enhance the timeliness of reviews, including using review shortcuts, narrowing the scope, intensifying the work on review processes and automating review steps.

  • Stakeholders involved in rapid reviews should be transparent about their methodological choices, and strong collaboration between knowledge producers and users is encouraged to make sure the resulting evidence fits its intended purpose.

  • Challenges in fast-tracking reviews include their application to complex health policy and systems interventions, striking a balance between accelerating review methods and maintaining robustness and transparency, as well as strengthening capacity for the conduct and use of rapid reviews.

As many countries are developing policies addressing universal health coverage (UHC) and the Sustainable Development Goals, there is increasing demand for relevant and contextualised evidence to inform health policy and systems decision-making.1 Policy-makers and health systems managers require valid evidence to support time-sensitive decisions regarding the coverage, quality, efficiency and equity of health systems. There are several health system challenges for which decision-makers require timely evidence, including integrated service delivery models, effective health financing schemes and equitable access to quality health systems interventions (table 1). Progressing towards UHC requires evidence to address a range of questions including the effectiveness of health systems interventions and policies, how and in what settings these interventions work, their cost-effectiveness, as well as the legal, ethical and societal implications of implementing these interventions.2 3

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Table 1

Examples of health …

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