Knowledge translation describes the process of getting knowledge into practice,
leading to a healthy workforce and economy. Knowledge translation is particularly
challenging at the primary healthcare level, which manifests as a research to practice
This research aimed to explore and describe knowledge translation from both a
knowledge translation organisation’s and knowledge user’s point of view at the South
African primary healthcare level. A qualitative dominant, mixed methods approach was
used. Twelve semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine organisations to
evaluate their knowledge translation strategies. An online survey collected responses
from primary healthcare workers to assess their knowledge needs and preferences.
Lastly, the Thinking Processes of Theory of Constraints were applied to the public
sector to identify ways in which knowledge translation can be optimised within the
Department of Health system.
This research found that the organisations’ strategies were inextricably linked to the
knowledge translation context. Barriers to knowledge translation in the public and
private sector as well as urban and rural areas differed in many respects.
Organisations were successful in overcoming many of these barriers, but barriers that
reside at the Department of Health (DOH) policy level, remain difficult to address.
The 82 survey respondents were mostly doctors from the urban private sector. They
represented a distinct subset of practitioners who preferred using the internet to access
knowledge and identified no significant barriers to staying up to date.
The Thinking Processes identified possible solutions to getting new DOH guidelines
into practice in a fast, reliable and coordinated manner. This requires increased
collaboration between knowledge translation organisations and the DOH as well as the
design of a system for updating the DOH guidelines on an annual basis.