Developing, implementing, and monitoring tailored strategies for integrated knowledge translation in five sub-Saharan African countries

Background Integrated knowledge translation (IKT) through strategic, continuous engagement with decision-makers represents an approach to bridge research, policy and practice. The Collaboration for Evidence-based Healthcare and Public Health in Africa (CEBHA +), comprising research institutions in Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Germany, developed and implemented tailored IKT strategies as part of its multifaceted research on prevention and care of non-communicable diseases and road traffic injuries. The objective of this article is to describe the CEBHA + IKT approach and report on the development, implementation and monitoring of site-specific IKT strategies. Methods We draw on findings derived from the mixed method IKT evaluation (conducted in 2020–2021), and undertook document analyses and a reflective survey among IKT implementers. Quantitative data were analysed descriptively and qualitative data were analysed using content analysis. The authors used the TIDieR checklist to report results in a structured manner. Results Preliminary IKT evaluation data (33 interviews with researchers and stakeholders from policy and practice, and 31 survey responses), 49 documents, and eight responses to the reflective survey informed this article. In each of the five African CEBHA + countries, a site-specific IKT strategy guided IKT implementation, tailored to the respective national context, engagement aims, research tasks, and individuals involved. IKT implementers undertook a variety of IKT activities at varying levels of engagement that targeted a broad range of decision-makers and other stakeholders, particularly during project planning, data interpretation, and output dissemination. Throughout the project, the IKT teams continued to tailor IKT strategies informally and modified the IKT approach by responding to ad hoc engagements and involving non-governmental organisations, universities, and communities. Challenges to using systematic, formalised IKT strategies arose in particular with respect to the demand on time and resources, leading to the modification of monitoring processes. Conclusion Tailoring of the CEBHA + IKT approach led to the inclusion of some atypical IKT partners and to greater responsiveness to unexpected opportunities for decision-maker engagement. Benefits of using systematic IKT strategies included clarity on engagement aims, balancing of existing and new strategic partnerships, and an enhanced understanding of research context, including site-specific structures for evidence-informed decision-making.