SELECT AN EVIDENCE-BASED PROGRAM
The website of the National Council on Aging features interactive training modules on several topics related to evidence-based programming. Series 1: Intro to Health Promotion Programs contains two modules that provide in-depth information on EBPs: Website.
The first module (Introduction: What Do We Mean By Evidence-Based?) of the Using What Works: Adapting Evidence-Based Programs to Fit Your Needs series of the National Cancer Institute provides details on the significance of EBPs: Website.
Health promotion programs that have been found to produce positive outcomes based on the results of rigorous evaluations are often termed “evidence-based.” To be identified as an evidence-based program (EBP), an intervention or program must be thoroughly evaluated by researchers who are able to attribute positive outcomes to the intervention itself.
When you look at various programs to see if they are evidence-based, you will come across many evaluation study designs (see Table 1). You do not need to be an expert in research methods to understand these study designs, but it is useful to understand some basic terms. The following terms are used when describing participants in studies.
Experimental group — Individuals in the experimental group are taking part in the program that is being evaluated in the study.
Comparison group — Individuals in the comparison group are not taking part in the program that is being evaluated. They may not be enrolled in any program or they may be enrolled in some alternative program. Members of the comparison group may or may not be similar in characteristics to the members of the experimental group (see Table 1 for an example).
Control group — Individuals in the control group are not taking part in the program that is being evaluated; however, they may be enrolled in some alternative program. Members of the control group are likely similar in characteristics to members of the experimental group (see Table 1 for an example).
TABLE 1 - EVALUATION STUDY DESIGNS
TYPE & DESCRIPTION
FIGURE 1. BASIC CRITERIA FOR EVIDENCE-BASED PROGRAMS
1. Researchers find the program to have positive outcomes in an evaluation study
2. The positive outcomes can be attributed to components of the program itself
4. The program is approved or endorsed by a research organization or federal agency
3. The evaluation study is peer-reviewed by experts who are knowledgeable about the topic
When evaluation researchers have identified evidence supporting a particular program, they will often publish their findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Publishing their findings allows experts in the field who are not associated with the evaluation to examine the evaluation and determine if they agree with the methods used and with the conclusions drawn about the effects of the program. Evaluation researchers may also submit evidence to research organizations and federal agencies that will examine the evidence and approve or endorse the programs they find to have solid bases of evidence (see Figure 1). This approval or endorsement communicates to others in the field that these programs have met various standards of effectiveness (see Identifying Evidence-Based Interventions for more information).