Developing an evidence-based Guide to Community Preventive Services--methods. The Task Force on Community Preventive Services

Am J Prev Med. 2000 Jan;18(1 Suppl):35-43. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(99)00119-1.


Systematic reviews and evidence-based recommendations are increasingly important for decision making in health and medicine. Over the past 20 years, information on the science of synthesizing research results has exploded. However, some approaches to systematic reviews of the effectiveness of clinical preventive services and medical care may be less appropriate for evaluating population-based interventions. Furthermore, methods for linking evidence to recommendations are less well developed than methods for synthesizing evidence. The Guide to Community Preventive Services: Systematic Reviews and Evidence-Based Recommendations (the Guide) will evaluate and make recommendations on population-based and public health interventions. This paper provides an overview of the Guide's process to systematically review evidence and translate that evidence into recommendations. The Guide reviews evidence on effectiveness, the applicability of effectiveness data, (i.e., the extent to which available effectiveness data is thought to apply to additional populations and settings), the intervention's other effects (i.e., important side effects), economic impact, and barriers to implementation of interventions. The steps for obtaining and evaluating evidence into recommendations involve: (1) forming multidisciplinary chapter development teams, (2) developing a conceptual approach to organizing, grouping, selecting and evaluating the interventions in each chapter; (3) selecting interventions to be evaluated; (4) searching for and retrieving evidence; (5) assessing the quality of and summarizing the body of evidence of effectiveness; (6) translating the body of evidence of effectiveness into recommendations; (7) considering information on evidence other than effectiveness; and (8) identifying and summarizing research gaps. Systematic reviews of and evidence-based recommendations for population-health interventions are challenging and methods will continue to evolve. However, using an evidence-based approach to identify and recommend effective interventions directed at specific public health goals may reduce errors in how information is collected and interpreted, identify important gaps in current knowledge thus guiding further research, and enhance the Guide users' ability to assess whether recommendations are valid and prudent from their own perspectives. Over time, all of these advantages could help to increase agreement regarding appropriate community health strategies and help to increase their implementation.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Health Planning Councils* / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Preventive Health Services / methods*
  • Research Design
  • United States
  • Writing*