Background: Health information has become readily accessible through mass media, and people are playing a more active and autonomous role in their health. Much of the health information that was previously only available to health professionals is now directly accessible to the public. Consequently, people often navigate vast amounts of health information on their own, typically with little knowledge about how to evaluate it or the need to do so. Health information remains essentially unregulated, and widespread problems and concerns with the quality of health information have been noted. In addition to the variable quality of health information, inconsistent and/or inappropriate use of related terminology (e.g. 'evidence-based' and 'clinically proven') can be confusing to the public, who are ill-prepared to critically examine claims. The general public are not trained in the fundamentals of health research and do not typically possess the knowledge and skills to evaluate the accuracy and completeness of information about health interventions. Without this, the public are vulnerable to acting on inaccurate or incomplete health information and making ill-informed health decisions. With this review, we intend to identify and assess educational interventions which have been designed to improve people's ability to understand key concepts relevant to evaluating claims about the effects of health interventions.
Methods/design: This systematic review of the literature will use a search strategy that has been developed in conjunction with a Health Sciences Librarian who has expertise in systematic review searching to identify relevant studies. Databases to be searched include the following: the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and ERIC. Attempts to identify unpublished studies and ongoing trials will also be made. Two review authors will independently screen search results and assess studies for eligibility. Studies which aim to improve participants' understanding of the key concepts relevant to evaluating the effects (or the interpretation of results) of health interventions will be included. Randomised trials, non-randomised trials, controlled before and after studies, controlled studies with only post-test measures, and interrupted time series studies will be eligible for inclusion. We will contact study authors to clarify any missing details/data. Due to the nature of the systematic review question and the expectation of heterogeneity in study design, interventions, and outcomes, we intend to take a narrative approach to data synthesis.
Systematic review registration: PROSPERO CRD42016033103.