Select an Evidence Based Program

Section 2.3

Identifying Evidence-based Interventions

Researchers will often submit evidence about programs to research organizations or federal agencies that will examine the evidence and approve or endorse the programs they find to have solid bases of evidence. These research organizations and agencies generate databases (sometimes termed registries or clearinghouses) that catalogue and provide various details about the approved or endorsed EBPs. In general, each database contains programs that address a specific age group (e.g., children and adolescents, seniors, families with children) or health topic (e.g., cancer prevention and treatment, parenting, environmental quality). Each organization and agency has its own specific criteria for what constitutes evidence-based. This information is provided on the websites of the organizations and agencies.

When looking at databases, you may encounter two related, yet distinct types. First, there are databases that catalogue and detail actual programs. With these databases, you can identify a prepackaged, ready-to-implement program to implement with your organization’s audience. For example, if you are looking to implement a smoking cessation program, you would be able to identify a self-contained program (containing implementation instructions, curriculum components, and resources) that will meet the needs of your audience. Second, there are databases that catalogue and detail broad policies or approaches that have positive impacts on health. For example, you can learn from one database that increasing the price of cigarettes and offering free smoking cessation programs are strategies that have been shown to decrease smoking rates. The program databases are useful for organizations that are ready to implement programs with their audiences. The policy and approach databases are generally more useful to program developers, researchers, and policymakers. Examples of both types of databases are provided below.

Databases of evidence based-programs

Most EBP databases allow you to search for programs using various criteria (e.g., age group, setting, outcome of interest). While numerous interventions are listed in the databases, they are not exhaustive—only interventions submitted by researchers are listed. Subsequently, you may need to examine various sources before selecting a program.

  • National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices — Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, this registry contains mental health and substance abuse interventions that have been reviewed and rated by independent reviewers. A general description of each program, descriptions of the outcomes, lists of studies and materials reviewed, and contact information to learn more about the programs are provided. Additionally, each program is given a quality and readiness for dissemination rating. The registry can be accessed here.
  • National Council on Aging — The National Council on Aging provides detailed program descriptions and information about evidence for programs that address the health needs of seniors. The included programs fall into one of four categories: chronic disease, falls prevention, physical activity, or behavioral health. The program descriptions can be accessed here.
  • Research-tested Intervention Programs — Sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, this database contains cancer control interventions and program materials. For each featured program, a full program summary (including an About the Study section), a program score, and related publications are presented. The database can be accessed here
  • Evidence-Based Leadership Council — The Evidence-Based Leadership Council provides a great resource for those seeking to learn more about innovative programs, proven to help people manage and improve their health and well-being. Included evidence-based programs are in the areas of chronic disease and medication management, physical activity, fall management, and depression. The website can be accessed here.
  • Aging Texas Well Clearinghouse — Sponsored by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, this clearinghouse features national and state level evidence-based information and research. Research syntheses and direct links to over 100 evidence-based programs and resources are provided. The clearinghouse can be accessed here.

Datebases of evidence-based policies and approaches

Most databases of evidence-based policies and approaches allow you to search by topic (e.g., alcohol use, diabetes, community safety). Generally, the databases detail the research supporting, or failing to support, each listed policy or approach.

  • The Community Guide — Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this guide provides research-based recommendations regarding what works to improve the health of the public. The recommendations are made after a scientific and systematic review process. The topics addressed range from birth defects and adolescent health to obesity and violence. The guide can be accessed here.
  • What Works for Health — Featured on the County Health Rankings website (which is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute), this database provides rankings for policies, programs, and system changes in four areas: health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment. The database can be accessed here.

Glossary of Terms

Toolkit Glossary

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Adaptation– Making changes to an evidence-based program in order to make it more suitable for a particular organization and/or audience.

Baseline – A starting point. In evidence-based programming, the term “baseline” is usually used in the context of data collection, where baseline data is data collected before a program is implemented.

Credentials – A testimony of qualification, competence, or authority issued to an individual by a third party. Examples of credentials include academic diplomas, academic degrees (e.g., MSW, MPH, PhD), licenses (e.g., MD, RN, LCSW), certifications (e.g., CHES, CPR, first aid), and security clearances.

Evidence – Facts or testimony in support of a conclusion, statement, or belief. In some settings, individuals may refer to “levels of evidence” or “types of evidence.” These terms will have specific definitions unique to the setting in which they are used. When referring to evidence-based programs, the term “evidence” is generally used to describe the findings or results of program evaluation studies.

Evidence-based program – A program that has been thoroughly evaluated by researchers who determined it produces positive outcomes.

Fidelity – The extent to which a program is being implemented as its developers intended for it to be.

Implementation – Putting into action or carrying out a program.

Instrument – A measurement tool. Instruments can take many forms including biomedical equipment (e.g., glucometer, blood pressure monitor, weight scale), pencil and paper tests, questionnaires, and interviews. A thermometer is an instrument used to measure body temperature. Likewise, a survey is an instrument that can be used to measure anxiety.

Medicaid – A publically-funded health insurance program for individuals who have low incomes and fall into certain categories of eligibility.

Objectives – Specific, measurable steps that can be taken to achieve goals.

Peer review – When experts review a professional’s performance, research, or writings. Peer review is a way that qualified professionals self-regulate their professions. Performance, research, or writings that pass the peer review process have increased credibility or trustworthiness.

Program champion – An individual who advocates for a program.

Quality assurance- A collection of planned, systematic activities applied to ensure that the components of a program are being implemented well.

Secondary data – Previously collected data that is being used for a purpose other than that for which it was originally collected.

Theory of behavior change – An attempt to explain how and why people change their behaviors. Researchers typically generate theories of behavior change from research in the fields of psychology, education, health, and other social sciences. When developing evidence-based programs, researchers will select a theory or components from several theories to guide program development.

Audience – The individuals for whom you implement your program. Depending on your setting, these individuals may also be referred to as a target population, population of interest, or clientele.

Buy-in – Typically used in the business world, buy-in refers to a financial exchange. In the context of health programs, the buy-in of stakeholders (community members, organizational leaders, participants, etc.) is generally non-financial. It involves their acceptance of a concept, idea, or proposal.

Data – A collection of facts, such as measurements and statistics.

Evidence-based practice – When clinicians (e.g., doctors, nurses) base their healthcare treatment decisions on the findings of current research, their clinical expertise, and the values/preferences of their patients.

Evidence-informed practice or program – A practice or program that is guided by theories and preliminary research. While there is some indication that these practices and programs produce positive outcomes, the evidence is too weak to refer to them as evidence-based. These are sometimes referred to as “promising” or “emerging” practices and programs.

Goals – General, non-measurable intentions or outcomes.

Incentives for participation – Factors that motivate an individual to take part in a program. Organizations sometimes provide incentives to encourage participants to begin and/or remain enrolled in a program. Common incentives include gift cards and program t-shirts.

Intervention – Organized efforts to promote health and prevent disease. This term is used because the efforts intervene, or come between, an individual and a negative health outcome in an attempt to prevent or delay the negative outcome. “Intervention” and “program” are often used interchangeably.

Interventionist – An individual who implements or carries out the components of a program.

Lay leaders – Individuals who do not have formal healthcare credentials who are trained to lead evidence-based programs.

Medicare – A publically-funded health insurance program for adults over age 65 and individuals with certain disabilities or health conditions.

Partnership – A cooperative relationship between two or more organizations that collaborate to achieve a common goal through the effective use of knowledge, personnel, and other resources.

Primary data – Original or new data being collected for a specific research goal.

Protocols - Predefined procedural methods. Examples include detailed program implementation procedures, required equipment, required data collection instruments with detailed instructions for administration, and recommended safety precautions.

Readiness – The degree to which an organization is prepared or ready for something.

Stakeholder – Any individual or group that has a stake or interest in a program.

Translation – The process of taking a program originally implemented in a controlled, laboratory-like setting and making it suitable for implementation in the community.

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