A review of the quantitative effectiveness evidence synthesis methods used in public health intervention guidelines
journal contributionposted on 2021-03-03, 11:54 authored by EA Smith, NJ Cooper, AJ Sutton, KR Abrams, SJ Hubbard
Background: The complexity of public health interventions create challenges in evaluating their effectiveness. There have been huge advancements in quantitative evidence synthesis methods development (including meta-analysis) for dealing with heterogeneity of intervention effects, inappropriate ‘lumping’ of interventions, adjusting for different populations and outcomes and the inclusion of various study types. Growing awareness of the importance of using all available evidence has led to the publication of guidance documents for implementing methods to improve decision making by answering policy relevant questions. Methods: The first part of this paper reviews the methods used to synthesise quantitative effectiveness evidence in public health guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that had been published or updated since the previous review in 2012 until the 19th August 2019.The second part of this paper provides an update of the statistical methods and explains how they address issues related to evaluating effectiveness evidence of public health interventions. Results: The proportion of NICE public health guidelines that used a meta-analysis as part of the synthesis of effectiveness evidence has increased since the previous review in 2012 from 23% (9 out of 39) to 31% (14 out of 45). The proportion of NICE guidelines that synthesised the evidence using only a narrative review decreased from 74% (29 out of 39) to 60% (27 out of 45).An application in the prevention of accidents in children at home illustrated how the choice of synthesis methods can enable more informed decision making by defining and estimating the effectiveness of more distinct interventions, including combinations of intervention components, and identifying subgroups in which interventions are most effective. Conclusions: Despite methodology development and the publication of guidance documents to address issues in public health intervention evaluation since the original review, NICE public health guidelines are not making full use of meta-analysis and other tools that would provide decision makers with fuller information with which to develop policy. There is an evident need to facilitate the translation of the synthesis methods into a public health context and encourage the use of methods to improve decision making.
CitationBMC Public Health volume 21, Article number: 278 (2021)
Author affiliationDepartment of Health Sciences, University of Leicester
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