This was an innovative project to help people purchasing and providing health promotion services develop the skills they need to make sense of evidence about effectiveness. In the course of this work, Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) workshops, originally developed for purchasers of health care and subsequently delivered more broadly, were adapted for health promotion with the help of prospective participants and their peers.
A pilot series of workshops was run during the spring of 1996. Each workshop focused on a different stage of working towards evidence-based health promotion: investigating processes and outcomes, and appraising such reports; appraising the evidence of randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews of the literature; and determining what information research proposals are likely to yield about processes and outcomes.
Six workshops were held in London. Forty-one providers took a total of 49 workshop places; 21 purchasers took a total of 29 places; 21 people with responsibilities for purchasing and providing services took a total of 30 places; 2 people from the voluntary sector took 4 places; and 4 academics took 5 places. Most of the participants enjoyed the workshops and found them good use of their time. They provided a forum for discussion as well as learning. Pre-workshop questionnaires revealed that purchasers and providers refer to their personal experience, their immediate colleagues and internal reports rather than published sources for information about effectiveness of health promotion.
Opportunities were taken to promote the use of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, now published as part of The Cochrane Library and the product of an international collaborative effort to review systematically evidence of effectiveness of health services. The workshops provided an opportunity to collate views of purchasers and providers for authors of Cochrane reviews and to inform future developments of The Cochrane Library.
The PHASE workshop programme demonstrated a number of obstacles in the path to evidence-based health promotion. Although some participants were keen to address the issue of effectiveness of health promotion, others were 'bowed down trying to demonstrate the effectiveness of what they’re doing' and claimed that 'research is actually the last thing used to make a decision in the current political climate'.
This report should be cited as: Oliver S, Nicholas A, Oakley A (1996) PHASE: promoting health after sifting the evidence. Workshop report. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.