This database summarizes scientific evidence–data accumulated through evaluation and research that carefully examines how an intervention is delivered and what improvements result–rather than intuitive judgment, expertise, or experience. Our gold standard for effectiveness is based on comprehensive systematic reviews finding strong evidence of effectiveness for a particular policy or program. When systematic reviews are not available, direct searches for research evaluating effectiveness may be conducted, seeking randomized controlled trials (RCTs) whenever possible. In areas where it is not feasible, practical or ethical to evaluate policies and programs using RCTs, we look for evidence based on relevance, objectivity, and credibility, and to experts’ opinions.
Evidence summarized in this database addresses the effectiveness of policies and programs on relevant factors of health, e.g., programs in the “income” section are reviewed in terms of their impact on income, not on the program’s effect on health. Unfortunately, available research generally does not provide adequate evidence of the relative importance or impact of most individual policies or programs, or even of the multiple factors of health themselves, on overall health or health disparities.
In this scan of research we found little evidence regarding effectiveness of policies and programs with respect to their impact on health disparities. Since it is likely that some policies and programs that will improve the average health of the population may actually increase disparities (such as those aimed at or most likely to affect high socioeconomic status populations) this remains a critical research agenda for the future.
In this scan of research we found limited evidence regarding the cost effectiveness of the policies and programs included in this database. Since it is likely that some policies and programs are more cost effective than others, this remains a critical research agenda for the future.