Evidence-Based Practice for Public Health Project Background

The Evidence-Based Practice for Public Health Project was initiated with the premise that public health practitioners, policy makers, and community leaders need access to quality evidence-based public health information to make informed decisions for public health practice. Evidence-based medicine (EBM) for clinical medicine involves using the best evidence for the treatment and diagnosis of disease in individual patients. Evidence-based public health (EBPH) involves using the best available evidence to develop public health policies, health promotion programs, and interventions for population-based public health practice. The Lamar Soutter Library of the University of the Massachusetts Medical School received funding to conduct the project from 2001 to 2005 through a cooperative agreement award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine.

The main purpose of the project was to address the need for improved access to high quality public health information. A major challenge to the development of an information resource targeted to providing evidence-based information to the public health workforce is the great breadth of the public health discipline. The public health workforce may be more diverse than any other group of health professionals and includes practitioners trained in dozens of disciplines, ranging from environmental health to veterinary medicine, from sanitary engineering to epidemiology. Public health activities include health monitoring and surveillance, prevention of chronic and communicable diseases, health promotion, disaster preparedness, and the development of public health laws and policies.

In an effort to develop an online portal for EBPH, the research team outlined and defined the field of public health. They examined sources that represented prominent public health associations, government health agencies, national health objectives, essential public health services, public health occupations, public health literature, and library indexes to identify the Knowledge Domains of Public Health. Twenty major knowledge domains and 155 subdomains of public health were identified that represent multiple subjects of knowledge within the broad field of public health. The project team also identified an extensive list of public health journals and bibliographic databases including those available for free online access.

The project team sought to gain a better understanding of the information needs of the public health workforce and undertook a qualitative study to investigate how public health practitioners access information needed for their work, what barriers they face, and what improvements are needed to develop an information systems model for access to EBPH information. Interviews and focus groups were conducted with public health practitioners from two domains of public health practice - communicable disease control and community health promotion. The study revealed that public health practitioners face several barriers and limitations to accessing quality information for public health practice. These include lack of time to search and retrieve relevant information, limited awareness of existing EBPH resources, and limited access to summarized and filtered information, systematic reviews, grey literature, and full-text journal articles. Results of the research study have been published in the journal BMC Public Health: LaPelle NR, Luckmann R, Simpson EH, Martin ER. Identifying strategies to improve access to credible and relevant information for public health professionals: a qualitative study. BMC Public Health. 2006;6:89.

To address the concerns raised by the research study, the research team created the Evidence-Based Practice for Public Health website, an online portal of EBPH resources. The website provides free online access to public health journals, databases, and EBPH resources identified and selected by the research team. The compiled EBPH resources are organized by information type and include evidence-based guidelines, systematic reviews, pre-formulated literature searches, and best practices. The EBPH online resource will continue to be updated with funding provided by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, New England Region and the Lamar Soutter Library, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA.

Final Project Report

Martin ER, Simpson EH. Evidence-Based Practice for Public Health Project: Final Report. Worcester, MA: Lamar Soutter Library, University of Massachusetts Medical School; December 2005.

Archived Project Material

Original Project Personnel

    Principal Investigator: Elaine R. Martin, DA, Director of Library Services, Lamar Soutter Library, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, elaine.martin@umassmed.edu.

    Project Coordinator: E. Hatheway Simpson, MPH, Lamar Soutter Library, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, hathy.simpson@umassmed.edu.

    Project Consultant: Roger Luckmann, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, luckmanr@ummhc.org.

    Project Consultant: Sharon Telleen, PhD, Research Associate Professor of Psychology and the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, telleen@uic.edu.

    Project Consultant: Nancy La Pelle, PhD, Qualitative Research Consultant, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, nancy.lapelle@umassmed.edu.

    Project Technical Advisor: Jocelyn Rankin, PhD, Chief, CDC Information Center, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, czr6@cdc.gov.

Contact Information

For more information about this project, please contact:

Hathy Simpson, MPH
Public Health Coordinator
National Network of Libraries of Medicine, New England Region
University of Massachusetts Medical School
222 Maple Ave.
Shrewsbury, MA 01545

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