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Evidence-Informed Public Health

Evidence-informed public health is “the process of distilling and disseminating the best available evidence from research, practice, and experience and using that evidence to inform and improve public health policy and practice.  Put simply, it means finding, using and sharing what works in public health.” 1

There are many published resources detailing the implementation of an evidence-informed approach to public health practice.  The National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools at McMaster University provides a Model for Evidence-Informed Decision Making in Public Health that is widely accepted by public health professionals.

The model outlines an evidence-based approach in seven steps:

  1. Define the problem and formulate a good question in response to the information need
  2. Search the literature for the best available evidence
  3. Critically appraise the relevant literature found
  4. Synthesize and interpret the evidence to create recommendations that address the question
  5. Adapt the evidence and recommendations to the local context based on community needs, political will, economic/ staff resources, and professional/community preferences
  6. Implement the adapted evidence and recommendations
  7. Evaluate the effects of the decisions and actions taken. 2
 

Types of Evidence

Pre-processed evidence condenses all or most of the research literature on a given topic according to strict criteria or methodologies in order to produce best evidence reviews or summaries that sharply answer a research or practice question.  The diagram below arranges types and sources of evidence in a hierarchal S6 pyramid, where the strongest form of evidence appears at the top.  Searching and finding the strongest evidence available has the potential to save time and effort in the decision-making process.

Refer to the library Literature Searching page for help with translating a research or practice-based question into a search strategy, identifying appropriate databases to search, and executing a search.

Resources

There are many evidence-informed health resources which provide access to primary and pre-processed evidence.  Here is a sample listing:

 

Evidence-based Pyramid

Image of the Evidence-based Pyramid

View, download and print the Evidence-based Pyramid (PDF 562KB), which includes definitions, resources and additional information. Reproduced with permission. 3

 

Databases

  • Canadian Best Practices Portal
    Created and managed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, this portal contains a searchable database of community interventions which have been evaluated and shown to be successful as well as lists of evidence-informed sites and resources.
  • Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    A chronological list of clinical practice guidelines established by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
  • Guide to Community Preventive Services
    A topical guide of best practices to improve health and prevent disease, maintained by the Community Preventive Services Task Force of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 
  • Health Evidence
    Health Evidence provides a searchable database of current reviews of the research literature.  These reviews are critically appraised and rated for their quality.
  • National Guideline Clearinghouse
    The National Guideline Clearinghouse is a database of clinical guidelines collected and managed by the United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  Each guideline is broken into sections for easier reading.  There are also syntheses of guidelines and a tool to compare guidelines.
  • Registered Nurses Association of Ontario Best Practice Guidelines
    A searchable database of best practice guidelines for nurses.
  • TRIP Database
    The TRIP Database is a searchable database of research evidence compiled from bibliographic databases as well as from reputable websites and other information sources.  The results can be limited to different levels of pre-processed evidence, for example, only systematic reviews or only guidelines.
  • U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
    The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is a panel of experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine who conduct reviews of preventive health care services. 
  • The Virtual Library
    The Virtual Library provides access to 18 bibliographic databases including Medline, CINAHL with Full Text, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects.  Public health librarians have additional access to other important databases that can also be searched on your behalf to locate primary studies.

Directories

  • Evidence-based Public Health
    A health wiki created by the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia, providing general resources and an alphabetical listing of evidence-based producers of information.
  • Information Sources for Evidence-Based Public Health (PDF, 76 KB)
    The Ontario Public Health Libraries Association lists a number of Canadian, U.S., and international evidence-based information sources.
 
Date of creation: February 28, 2013
Last modified on: March 4, 2016

References

1National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools. (2011, May 31). Evidence-informed public health. Retrieved from
http://www.nccmt.ca/eiph/index-eng.html
2Ciliska D., Thomas H., & Buffett C. (2012). A compendium of critical appraisal tools for public health practice. Hamilton, ON: National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools. Retrieved from
http://www.nccmt.ca/pubs/CompendiumToolENG.pdf
3National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools. (2011, May 31). Search: Efficiently search for research evidence. In Evidence-informed public health. Retrieved from
http://www.nccmt.ca/eiph/search-eng.html