Our most popular research blog posts of 2020

Black man wearing a face mask and leaning against a wall looking at a mobile phone

In 2020, readers from 194 countries visited R&E Search for Evidence to learn about research, evaluation and evidence from our FHI 360 colleagues. We’ve published posts that speak to vaccine hesitancy, remote data collection, disability screening tools, a rapid evidence review methodology and more. Here I highlight our most read posts of the year as well as other posts popular among readers around the world.

The top posts
Our three most widely read posts are all connected in some way to the current COVID-19 pandemic context.
Our three most widely read posts are all connected in some way to the current COVID-19 pandemic context.

Handwashing messages appear front-and-center everywhere we go now. However, some of those messages are more effective at changing our behavior than others. Our most popular new post of 2020 comes from Julia Rosenbaum in which she describes how existing behavior change evidence can inform the success of COVID-19 prevention messages like “wash your hands” and “don’t touch your face”.

Researchers haven’t been able to travel to collect qualitative data from individual interviews or focus groups this year. A new study from Emily Namey and colleagues compared the data generated from in-person meetings and three different online conversation platforms (video, text-based and message boards). Wondering which option to consider for your research project? In our second most popular post, Emily describes the strengths and weaknesses of each mode of data collection.

Travel restrictions, local lockdowns and physical distancing requirements also impact program monitoring. So, Brian Dooley created a decision tree to help colleagues identify the right survey tool for their COVID-19 context. He explores how best to monitor programs when in-person visits aren’t possible in our third most popular post.

The top posts by country
Nearly two-thirds of our readers are now based outside of the United States.
R&E Search for Evidence readership continued to grow in 2020, and nearly two-thirds of our readers are now based outside of the United States. To celebrate, I want to highlight the top five countries with the most readers and share with you what they’ve been reading this year.

United Kingdom

Don’t have 18 months to complete a systematic review? Readers in the United Kingdom must agree, because they like Annette Brown’s post on her approach to rapid evidence review which she piloted on the topic of the dual burden of malnutrition. (Annette also summarizes findings from the rapid review in two companion posts – one post features an evidence map and the other post highlights what works to prevent and treat childhood obesity in low- and middle-income countries.) Additionally, Aubrey Weber’s post on what research utilization is and why it’s important features high on the list for readers in the United Kingdom.


As the world prepares for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, the realities of vaccine hesitancy are relevant now more than ever. Readers in India like Isaiah Braxton’s post that examines recent evidence on how race influences attitudes and behaviors, like vaccine hesitancy, towards the flu vaccine. Readers also like the post featuring highlights of Emily Namey’s study comparing the quantity, quality and cost of qualitative data collected via remote or in-person methods (a companion post to the most popular post mentioned above).


Readers in the Philippines are most interested in analyses of evidence this year – specifically on mHealth and handwashing. Namely, they like the post from Annette Brown that presents an analysis of evidence (the good and the bad) for mHealth interventions in low- and middle-income countries. And they also like Aarin Palomares’ post featuring her reflections on new handwashing evidence. Aarin pulled these selections on handwashing access and behavior from an annual compilation of evidence produced by USAID and the Global Handwashing Partnership.


Humanitarian assistance is top of mind in Kenya. Readers especially like Michael OBrien’s case study analysis of the barriers facing organizations implementing life-saving interventions and development solutions simultaneously. Additionally, readers in Kenya are interested in gender equality and equity. They like the post from Judith Nalukwago tackling why practitioners need to act now to better integrate gender in health development research.


Finally, readers in Nigeria like a post from Halima Oji and Aisha Nuraini focused on the SMART methodology. Halima and Aisha write about the use of the methodology in collecting real-time nutrition data in Northeast Nigeria. Another popular post comes from Betsy Tolley. Betsy writes about an acceptability study on the expansion of HIV PrEP using long-acting injectables.

Posts on health equity in the United States
While our blog tends to be more focused on international development, FHI 360 does work and write about research in the United States.
While our blog tends to be more focused on international development, FHI 360 does work and write about research in the United States. A couple of posts this year focus on health equity in the United States. The impact of COVID-19 on women is disproportionate, especially on Black and Hispanic women. Isaiah Braxton describes new evidence showing the pandemic’s impact on reproductive health experiences among minority women. We also published a post featuring evidence on finding strategies that improve health equity in the United States.

This health equity post is part of the Research Roundtable video series. FHI 360 experts join Annette Brown in these videos to talk about their recently published evidence. We also published three other Research Roundtable posts which feature research on intimate partner violence, qualitative data collection and injectable HIV PrEP. You can find all posts about the series here and the full video playlist here.

Popular on social media

I tweet about R&E Search for Evidence posts and FHI 360 research publications every day on @fhi360research. Three posts really engaged our Twitter followers over the last few months. Lara Lorenzetti summarizes evidence showing a tablet-based health video library made community health workers’ jobs more efficient in Afghanistan. Rachel Hatch writes about disability screening tools and when to use them. And Annie Smiley and colleagues discuss “what works” for education in emergencies research.

Also popular on social media are two book review posts. Both posts are from Annette Brown. In her first book review of the year, Annette summarizes and offers critiques of Steven Koltai’s Peace through Entrepreneurship. And in her second, Annette offers highlights from Elisabeth King and Cyrus Samii’s book on whether recognizing ethnic identity promotes peace.

What’s the future hold in 2021?

Our editorial calendar for 2021 is already shaping up. You can look forward to new posts on handwashing evidence, childhood obesity research tools, research utilization methods and more. And don’t forget we have 151 other previously published posts on R&E Search for Evidence, including a recently published post from Fernanda Soares and colleagues on their newly published typology and framework for professional learning communities (PLCs) in low- and middle-income countries.

I hope you take some time to catch up on what our experts are sharing. Happy new year!

The Evidence Unit of FHI 360’s Chief Science Office produces R&E Search for Evidence. Annette Brown serves as Editor-in-Chief and Corey White serves as Managing Editor.

Photo credit: disobeyart/Freepik

Hyperlinked names take you to the author’s individual professional website.

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