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Health Evidence™: Using Evidence to Inform Practice

Contents

I Introduction
II About Health Evidence™
III Social media
IV Conclusion

--Submitted by Heather Husson, Olivia Marquez, and Jaime Stief, National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools

I Introduction

For those working in the field of public health, the use of research in decision-making is more than a best practice; it is one of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Core Competencies of Public Health. Using research evidence to inform program and policy decisions that reflect key findings in the field is an important step in improving Canada’s public health system. It also means empowering the judgement of team leaders. When asked about the benefits of incorporating research into practice, Toronto Public Health’s chief nursing officer Carol Timmings explained, “When you make a decision based on evidence, it builds your confidence in a really significant way.”

One of the greatest challenges to using evidence in decision-making is navigating the volume of research available. Decision makers must also consider the relevance and methodological quality of the research they find. These issues confront public health practitioners at all levels, including Dr. David Mowat, Senior Scientific Lead, Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. In response to the abundance of research produced each year, Dr. Mowat argued, “What we need to do is use the best evidence, the most valid evidence we can find, because better evidence, better decisions.” Without sound evidence, there cannot be sound decision making. Fortunately for Canadian public health decision makers, there are resources available to help bring quality research into their practice.

II About Health Evidence™

Health Evidence™ is a Canadian research and service organization offering a suite of tools and services tailored to public health practitioners and their organizations. Our key resource, the http://healthevidence.org online registry of systematic reviews, offers a free, searchable database of relevant, quality-appraised systematic reviews evaluating the effectiveness of relevant public health interventions. At present, the easy-to-use repository hosts over 4,800 systematic reviews, with short evidence summaries available for over 130 strong-rated reviews. The repository is constantly updated, with new reviews added daily from the monthly screening of four electronic databases and three listservs, supplemented with annual screening of three additional databases.

The Health Evidence™ registry features systematic reviews on topics such as chronic disease prevention, health through the ages and nutrition, and provides over 1,650 links to free-access full-text reviews and over 950 links to full-text Cochrane reviews. The evidence made available to users through the registry is applicable at all decision-making levels.

Health Evidence™’s online registry helps public health practitioners search for, interpret and apply research evidence in their local context. Currently, healthevidence.org has over 90,000 unique visits per year from over 193 countries, with over 250 visitors per day. Since June 2016, we have made it even easier to search our registry by removing the mandatory login to search the registry. Searching on the go is now made easy—by phone or tablet—without needing to remember a password. Still, registered users may continue to log in and benefit from additional search features linked to their profile, including the ability to save searches and export results, save or email articles, and enable our updated monthly tailored evidence service.

Health Evidence Activity Summary

III Social media

In addition to the online registry, Health Evidence™ utilizes social media as a means of engaging with decision-makers who rely on evidence in their practice. The @HealthEvidence Twitter account currently has over 6,000 followers from around the globe. Brief, actionable messages are disseminated via Twitter (https://twitter.com/HealthEvidence) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/healthevidence/) daily, highlighting recent, methodologically strong systematic review evidence. The Health Evidence™ team seeks out trending topics from international news sources that can be linked to relevant systematic reviews. The result is a media feed designed to help users contextualize claims made by popular media. By taking this innovative approach to disseminating research, Health Evidence™ is able to improve collective awareness of effective interventions—an essential strategy to improving the use of resources in public health.

The Health Evidence™ monthly webinar series connects public health decision makers through author-led presentations of recent systematic review findings. The web-based sessions allow for attendance by a large international audience (typically 100+ attendees), and the availability of webinar slides and recordings, via SlideShare (http://www.slideshare.net/HealthEvidence) and YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/healthevidence), respectively, allows for asynchronous attendance. Author-led sessions allow public health professionals to ask questions and engage directly with review authors, enriching the participant learning experience. Our post-session polls reveal a 10–30 percent improvement in participant understanding of the intervention in question, enhancing the capacity for evidence-informed decision making. Topics of upcoming sessions can be found by signing up for the Health Evidence™ monthly newsletter as a registered user (http://www.healthevidence.org/register.aspx), following Health Evidence™ on Twitter (@HealthEvidence) or visiting healthevidence.org.

IV Conclusion

Operating since 2005, Health Evidence™ strives to make evidence easily accessible because using best evidence in practice is essential to encouraging optimal health among populations. Developed in collaboration with Canadian public health decision makers, Health Evidence™ prides itself in our mission to promote both organizational and individual capacity for evidence-informed public health decision making.
 
Check out http://www.healthevidence.org! Contact us with questions or feedback—we would love to hear from you: [email protected].