While there are well-established methods for finding and evaluating evidence in clinical settings, finding and assessing evidence for population and community-based public health interventions presents unique challenges. For example, the literature in this area can be broadly multi-disciplinary, making it important to draw from numerous resources. Much of the literature may be found outside of published, peer-reviewed journals, on organizational or government websites. Additionally, reporting standards for interventions vary widely resulting in additional challenges for evaluating whether or not an implementation method will be effective in your setting of interest. Here are some key articles discussing the challenges and providing guidance for evaluating evidence for public health interventions.
The next pages of this guide provide resources and approaches to finding evidence for public health interventions. Consider the following step-wise approach to conducting your search or adapt it as you see fit. And keep in mind that this is an iterative process! For details about each step, see the next tab.
A systematic review is a methodical and comprehensive literature review focused on a particular research question. It's aim is to identify and synthesize all of the scholarly research on a particular topic in an unbiased, reproducible way to provide evidence for practice and policy-making.
Systematic reviews are considered the pinnacle of research evidence in terms of types of studies. See the evidence pyramid below.
The Cochrane Collaboration is an organization that performs systematic reviews for clinical medicine interventions and provides guidance for methodology. See the next page for other sources of systematic reviews, some in areas of public health and social sciences.
Not all scientific studies are created equal! Study design is one aspect that can impact the strength and quality of evidence that a study holds. This 'Evidence Pyramid' depicts the levels of evidence provided by different types of studies and information in clinical medicine.