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Systematic review of knowledge translation strategies in the allied health professions

Shannon D Scott1*, Lauren Albrecht1, Kathy O’Leary1, Geoff DC Ball2, Lisa Hartling23, Anne Hofmeyer4, C Allyson Jones5, Terry P Klassen67, Katharina Kovacs Burns89, Amanda S Newton10112, David Thompson12 and Donna M Dryden23

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Level 3, Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, Edmonton, AB, Canada

2 Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, 8213 Aberhart Centre, Edmonton, AB, Canada

3 Alberta Research Centre for Health Evidence, University of Alberta, Level 4, Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, Edmonton, AB, Canada

4 School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

5 Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, 3-48 Corbett Hall, Edmonton, AB, Canada

6 Manitoba Institute of Child Health, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Manitoba, Level 5, John Buhler Research Centre, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

7 Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, 650 Main Street, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

8 Health Sciences Council and Interdisciplinary Health Research Academy, University of Alberta, 3–398 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, Edmonton, AB, Canada

9 Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, 10230 111 Avenue, Edmonton, AB, Canada

10 Women and Children’s Health Research Institute, University of Alberta, 4–081 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, Edmonton, AB, Canada

11 Stollery Children’s Hospital, 8440 112 Street, Edmonton, AB, Canada

12 Northern Ontario School of Medicine, 955 Oliver Road, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

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Implementation Science 2012, 7:70  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-70

Published: 25 July 2012



Knowledge translation (KT) aims to close the research-practice gap in order to realize and maximize the benefits of research within the practice setting. Previous studies have investigated KT strategies in nursing and medicine; however, the present study is the first systematic review of the effectiveness of a variety of KT interventions in five allied health disciplines: dietetics, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physiotherapy, and speech-language pathology.


A health research librarian developed and implemented search strategies in eight electronic databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, ERIC, PASCAL, EMBASE, IPA, Scopus, CENTRAL) using language (English) and date restrictions (1985 to March 2010). Other relevant sources were manually searched. Two reviewers independently screened the titles and abstracts, reviewed full-text articles, performed data extraction, and performed quality assessment. Within each profession, evidence tables were created, grouping and analyzing data by research design, KT strategy, targeted behaviour, and primary outcome. The published descriptions of the KT interventions were compared to the Workgroup for Intervention Development and Evaluation Research (WIDER) Recommendations to Improve the Reporting of the Content of Behaviour Change Interventions.


A total of 2,638 articles were located and the titles and abstracts were screened. Of those, 1,172 full-text articles were reviewed and subsequently 32 studies were included in the systematic review. A variety of single (n = 15) and multiple (n = 17) KT interventions were identified, with educational meetings being the predominant KT strategy (n = 11). The majority of primary outcomes were identified as professional/process outcomes (n = 25); however, patient outcomes (n = 4), economic outcomes (n = 2), and multiple primary outcomes (n = 1) were also represented. Generally, the studies were of low methodological quality. Outcome reporting bias was common and precluded clear determination of intervention effectiveness. In the majority of studies, the interventions demonstrated mixed effects on primary outcomes, and only four studies demonstrated statistically significant, positive effects on primary outcomes. None of the studies satisfied the four WIDER Recommendations.


Across five allied health professions, equivocal results, low methodological quality, and outcome reporting bias limited our ability to recommend one KT strategy over another. Further research employing the WIDER Recommendations is needed to inform the development and implementation of effective KT interventions in allied health.

Allied health; Knowledge translation; Research use; Behaviour change interventions; Systematic review