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Evidence gap map of research on adolescent wellbeing in low and middle income countries: Online tool helps visualize where evidence exists and where it is scarce

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(18 December 2017) UNICEF Innocenti has just launched a new evidence gap map on adolescent well-being. The research project measures evidence gaps for programme and policy interventions on adolescent well-being broadly across the domains of protection, participation, and financial and material well-being in low- and middle-income countries.

The gap map helps to describe where evidence for programming and policy exists, where it is scarce, and where evidence is missing. Identifying the gaps help UNICEF determine where more primary research or further synthesis is needed to improve programmes and policies for adolescents. The results of the mapping study include an in-depth report on the evidence gaps and an interactive online tool which visualizes the results of the mapping study, both informed by the study protocol.

“Research syntheses are important for helping us make decisions based on a body of evidence rather than just on single studies,” said Nikola Balvin, the knowledge management specialist focusing on adolescent research at UNICEF Innocenti who developed and managed the Evidence Gap Map project.

[Online tool: The Evidence Gap Map on Adolescent Well-being]

“It is a mapping tool which synthesizes existing evidence on interventions targeting adolescents in these three domains (protection, participation, and financial and material well-being). We did it because there was nothing else focusing on these domains. This gap map brings together interventions focusing on adolescents in low- and middle- income countries and it maps what exists so we know where the gaps are,” she added.

METHODOLOGY AND FINDINGS

The evidence gap map identified 74 studies, including 71 impact evaluations and 3 systematic reviews, that met the inclusion criteria. The study found that evidence is most abundant at the individual and inter-personal level, and the most frequent intervention is financial support to individuals and households, with the majority of interventions including cash transfers.

“A lot of really interesting trends emerged. The most interesting is probably where the gaps are. The first thing you see when you look at the gap map is that there is hardly anything – hardly any evaluated interventions at the institutional and policy level – so that is a big gap,” Balvin said, highlighting how the results point clearly gaps in evidence base. “In terms of outcome areas, another big gap is seen in information and communication technology – which is especially significant considering how much adolescents are plugged into the online world. So we know very little about what kind of impact interventions using these online platforms are having on adolescents, which is big,” she added.

See related links to listen to our recent podcast with Nikola Balvin on the adolescent wellbeing evidence gap map.