Effectiveness of public deliberation methods for gathering input on issues in healthcare: Results from a randomized trial

Soc Sci Med. 2015 May;133:11-20. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.03.024. Epub 2015 Mar 14.


Public deliberation elicits informed perspectives on complex issues that are values-laden and lack technical solutions. This Deliberative Methods Demonstration examined the effectiveness of public deliberation for obtaining informed public input regarding the role of medical evidence in U.S. healthcare. We conducted a 5-arm randomized controlled trial, assigning participants to one of four deliberative methods or to a reading materials only (RMO) control group. The four deliberative methods reflected important differences in implementation, including length of the deliberative process and mode of interaction. The project convened 76 groups between August and November 2012 in four U.S.

Locations: Chicago, IL; Sacramento, CA; Silver Spring, MD; and Durham, NC, capturing a sociodemographically diverse sample with specific attention to ensuring inclusion of Hispanic, African-American, and elderly participants. Of 1774 people recruited, 75% participated: 961 took part in a deliberative method and 377 participants comprised the RMO control group. To assess effectiveness of the deliberative methods overall and of individual methods, we evaluated whether mean pre-post changes on a knowledge and attitude survey were statistically different from the RMO control using ANCOVA. In addition, we calculated mean scores capturing participant views of the impact and value of deliberation. Participating in deliberation increased participants' knowledge of evidence and comparative effectiveness research and shifted participants' attitudes regarding the role of evidence in decision-making. When comparing each deliberative method to the RMO control group, all four deliberative methods resulted in statistically significant change on at least one knowledge or attitude measure. These findings were underscored by self-reports that the experience affected participants' opinions. Public deliberation offers unique potential for those seeking informed input on complex, values-laden topics affecting broad public constituencies.

Keywords: Citizens' jury; Comparative effectiveness research; Evidence-based medicine; Public deliberation; Public engagement; Public opinion; United States.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Community Participation / methods*
  • Decision Making*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Opinion*
  • United States