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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Promising practices for connecting knowledge to action for health equity Plamondon, Katrina Marie


In 2008, the Commission on Social Determinants of Health established the unfair and disproportionate distribution of power, resources, and money as the root causes of health inequities. These socioeconomic and political causes are resistant to change, therefore creating a tenacious gap between knowledge and action for health equity. Grounded in critical pedagogy, this dissertation involved three studies to illuminate practices for overcoming this knowledge-to-action (KTA) gap. The first study mapped practices in the field of health equity by examining literature in the field of health equity. This scoping review showed modest integration of evidence about root causes of health inequities, with about half of 330 articles framing health inequities without referring to known causes. Among 110 empirical articles published post-2008, half oriented their work in ways that did something to illuminate or interrupt root causes of inequities. A critical interpretive synthesis was then conducted, focusing on articles where authors integrated evidence about root causes of health inequities and attempted to respond directly. Qualitative analysis of the studies’ designs, results, and conclusions identified of a set of four promising KTA practices, grouped into ways of structuring systems, working together, doing research, and doing knowledge translation These ways of doing were found to influence (and by influenced by) how attuned one is to the evidence about causes of inequities. In the third study, experts in health equity and knowledge translation contributed to a series of critically reflective dialogues to deeply explore how contributors oriented themselves to health equity and what they believed was promising for connecting KTA in their field. These dialogues nuanced and extended findings from studies 1 and 2, supporting the need for fostering equity attunement as a central promising practice. Four promising ways of thinking—relationally, reflexively, responsively, and tenaciously—were also identified, and each fit into an integrated framework for advancing health equity action by aligning ways of thinking and doing around a central effort to foster equity attunement. Together, these three studies provide practical and applied steps that can be taken to advance a health equity action among academics, students, health professionals, leaders, and others.

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