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Evidence-Based Public Health: Finding and Appraising Relevant Resources. Medical Library Association Continuing Education Course May 21, 2004. Course Objectives. Understand the characteristics of evidence-based public health.

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Evidence-Based Public Health: Finding and Appraising Relevant Resources

Medical Library Association

Continuing Education Course

May 21, 2004

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Course Objectives

  • Understand the characteristics of evidence-based public health.

  • Be informed about the variety of resources available for evidence-based health practice.

  • Gain an awareness of tools available for collection management.

  • Know how to respond to information questions typical of those posed by public health workers, students and researchers, and know the types of resources available to help answer questions.

  • Identify types of evidence and methodologies for appraising the public health literature.

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Objective 1 Understand the characteristics of evidence-based public health

  • What is Evidence-Based Public Health (EBPH)?

  • Why is EBPH important?

  • How does public health practice relate medical practice?

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Injury Prevention

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Definition ofEvidence-Based Public Health

“the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of communities and populations in the domain of health protection, disease prevention, health maintenance and improvement.”


Jenicek M. Epidemiology, evidenced-based medicine, and evidence-based public health. J Epidemiol. Dec 1997;7(4):187-197.

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Definition ofEvidence-Based Public Health, cont.

“the development, implementation, and evaluation of effective programs and policies in public health through application of principles of scientific reasoning, including systematic uses of data and information systems, and appropriate use of behavioral science theory and program planning models.”


Brownson RC, Gurney JG, Land GH. Evidence-based decision making in public health. J Public Health Manag Pract. Sep 1999;5(5):86-97.

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Evidence-Based Practice

  • Requires integrating practitioner expertise with the best evidence from systematic research.

  • Involves finding and selecting resources that are credible, relevant, and applicable to practice.

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Process of Evidence-Based Practice

  • Define the problem: convert information needs into focused questions.

  • Find the best evidence from the literature.

  • Critically appraise the evidence for validity and relevance.

  • Apply the evidence to practice.

  • Evaluate the results.

  • Adopted from:

  • Sackett DL, Rosenberg WM. The need for evidence-based medicine. J R Soc Med. Nov 1995;88(11):620-624.

  • Sibbald WJ. Some opinions on the future of evidence-based medicine. Crit Care Clin. 1998;14(3):549-558.

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Why Evidence-Based Practice?

  • So much information, too little time

  • Need high quality, filtered information to make informed decisions

  • Value of scientific knowledge for decision making

  • Decisions should not be based only on intuition, opinion or anecdotal information

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Need for Evidence-Based Public Health

  • Government downsizing - limited resources

  • Need to justify actions and demonstrate benefits of public health interventions

  • Decisions often made by politicians with limited health backgrounds

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From Public Health Professionals:

“Some things have simply always been done a certain way – are common practice, but there is really no research to back it up.”

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From Public Health Professionals:

“I make a lot of decisions about how money is going to be spent, and I would like to always be able to back it up and say that this is proven, or evidence-based.”

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From Public Health Professionals:

“Politics always overlays decision-making on everything that is not evidence-based in the public health world. Everything we do is imbued with political priorities and funding decisions.”

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The Evidence-Based Movement


How does public health

relate to medicine?

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Public Health: Health of Populations

Medicine: Health of Individuals

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Focus on populations

Prevention & health promotion

Environment & human behavior interventions

Diverse workforce, variable education & certifications

Social sciences integral; clinical sciences peripheral to education

Observational studies: case- control & cohort studies

Focus on individuals

Diagnosis & treatment

Clinical interventions

Well-established profession, standardized education & certification

Clinical sciences integral; social sciences less emphasized

Experimental studies with control groups: RCTs.

Public Health



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Public Health


Interaction of Public Health & Medicine:

  • Medical Care Section of APHA

  • Medicine/Public Health Initiative

  • AAMC-CDC Cooperative Agreement

  • Collaboration on emerging health threats

    • Bioterrorism (anthrax, 2001)

    • Emerging infections (SARS, 2003)

    • Surveillance Technology: ability to quickly exchange information electronically

  • Managed care: What can we afford?

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10 Essential Services of Public Health

Public Health Functions Project, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services

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Evidence-Based Public Health

Best Evidence



Social values,






  • Decisions for Public Health Practice

  • Interventions

  • Programs

  • Policies

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Objective 2Be informed about the variety of resources available for evidence-based health practice

  • What types of resources can be used to make evidence-based public health decisions?

  • The classification of public health evidence: What are the knowledge domains of public health?

  • What journal literature is associated with each public health knowledge domain?

  • What bibliographic databases index public health information?

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Sources of “Evidence”

  • Journal literature

  • Books

  • Conference proceedings & abstracts

  • Dissertations & theses

  • Unpublished scientific papers

  • Government reports (federal, state and local)

  • Policy statements, laws & regulations

  • Surveillance data

  • Newsletters

  • Teleconferences & webcasts

  • Alert systems

  • Listservs

  • Internet sources

  • Expert opinion

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Evidence Pyramid

From: The Medical Research Library of Brooklyn, http://servers.medlib.hscbklyn.edu/ebm/2100.htm

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Models of Information:Sources of Evidence-Based Knowledge

  • Reports of Original Research

  • Summaries, Critiques and Commentaries

  • Systematic Reviews, Meta-Analyses, and Evidence-Based Guidelines

  • Comprehensive Knowledge Bases

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1. Reports of Original Research

  • Journal articles

  • Book chapters

  • Reports (government & other sources)

  • Newsletter articles

  • Conference proceedings and abstracts

  • Bibliographic databases that cite the above

  • Filtered searches of bibliographic databases

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Original Research Article: Am J Public Health

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2. Summaries, Critiques and Commentaries

  • Narrative reviews and summaries of original studies

  • Critiques of original studies

  • Expert commentary based on original studies

  • Structured abstracts of individual research articles

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3. Systematic Reviews, Meta-Analyses, and Evidence-Based Guidelines

  • Systematic reviews with explicit criteria

  • Meta-analyses of data from original studies

  • Evidence-based guidelines based on original studies, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses

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Full Cochrane Review Guidelines(from Ovid by subscription)

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Link from Guide to Community Preventive Services: GuidelinesAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine

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4. Comprehensive Knowledge Bases Guidelines

  • Searchable online textbooks with up-to-date information

  • Collections of multiple online resources

    • Journal articles

    • E-textbook chapters

    • Guidelines

    • Recommendations

    • Patient handouts

    • Images

    • Multiple databases with integrated searching

    • Internet links to related sources

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The Classification of GuidelinesPublic Health Evidence: What are the Knowledge Domains of Public Health?

  • The field of public health is very broad and diverse

  • There are multiple disciplines (knowledge domains) within the field of public health

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Epidemiologists Guidelines


Environmental Engineers

Animal Control Officers


Food Scientists

Industrial Hygienists

Health Care Administrators

Health Economists


Social Workers

Mental Health Workers

Substance Abuse Counselors




Disaster Relief Workers


Lab Technicians

The Public Health Workforce

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Sources Used to Identify the Knowledge Domains of Public Health

  • Public health accreditation criteria

  • Public health associations

  • Government health agencies

  • National health objectives

  • Public health occupational categories

  • Public health literature

  • Public health subject headings from NLM and LOC

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General Public Health Health



Vital Statistics & Surveillance

Environmental Health

Occupational Health

Health Services Administration

Social & Behavioral Sciences

Health Promotion & Education

Community Health

Maternal & Child Health

Public Health Nursing

Disaster Control & Emergency Services

Communicable Diseases



Chronic Diseases

Public Health Laboratory Sciences

Public Health Informatics

Global Health

Identified Knowledge Domains

Public Health

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CDC Information Center Health

Healthy People 2010 Information Access Project

Core Public Health Journal Project

ISI’s Journal Citation Reports

Public health subject experts

Sources Used to Identify Public Health Journals

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Public Health Journal Collection Health

  • Knowledge Domain

  • Online Access

  • Price

  • Impact Factor

  • Databases Indexed In

  • Table of Contents Email Alerts

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Public Health HealthBibliographic Databases

  • CDC Information Center

  • Public health librarians

  • Abstracting and indexing services for key public health journals

  • Journals and newsletters

  • E-mail listservs

  • Public health websites

  • Public health subject experts

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Public Health HealthBibliographic Databases

Access free or by subscription only?

Who produced the database?

What topics are covered?

What kinds of materials are indexed?

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Future Endeavors Health

  • Continue to identify public health journals, databases and evidence-based resources

  • Update lists with new information

  • Continue study of the information needs and access preferences of public health practitioners

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The Project’s Website Health