Implementation of evidence-based public health (EBPH) is lagging behind in Saudi Arabia and the region. Graduate-level public health curriculum at King Saud University, College of Medicine, Riyadh, is designed to equip students to integrate best available evidence in public health decision making.
The objectives of this study were to explore the viewpoint of the students on the perceived challenges they faced during training and the possible opportunities to improve their learning experience of EBPH.
Eighteen graduate students participated in 3 focus groups that were audio-recorded, transcribed, and de-identified before analysis. Social construction and constructivism lens using thematic analysis were adopted. Saturation was reached when similar responses were recorded.
Two themes (challenges and opportunities) and 9 subthemes emerged. The lack of a national health information system, scarcity of research pertinent to the Saudi community, and deficient communication between the postgraduate programs and the Ministry of Health were the main barriers perceived by participants to affect their EBPH training. However, participants perceived opportunities for change through establishment of partnership and communication channels with the Ministry of Health and the Saudi community. In addition, participants considered building community of practice and using social media as a platform for communication between public health professionals and the community at large as a valid opportunity for professional growth and community service.
Although systematic training in EBPH through postgraduate programs is effective in providing the future manpower with the needed skill and knowledge to practice EBPH, organizational and cultural barriers remain toward practicing EBPH. Reaching out to those in leadership positions and communicating with other public health professionals may facilitate spreading the culture of EBPH.