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Effectiveness reviews in health promotion

What do we want to know?

This study investigates the methods used to conduct reviews of the effectiveness of health promotion interventions.  It aims to determine how different review methods affected the conclusions drawn, and to make recommendations on how effectiveness reviews in health promotion should be carried out.

Who wants to know?

Policy-makers, researchers, practitioners.

What did we find?  

Existing effectiveness reviews in health promotion are often poorly reported and in reviews addressing similar topics the use of different methods can lead to different review conclusions. Less exhaustive search strategies find fewer studies for reviews. Varying the inclusion criteria in a review can result in different recommendations for what constitutes an effective/ineffective intervention. 

Commissioners, purchasers and providers of health promotion services had clear views about how effectiveness reviews could be made more useful. In particular, they highlighted the need to examine intervention processes as well as outcomes and involve end-users in framing the questions and scope of the review.

What are the implications? 

The study made detailed recommendations for the reporting and preparation of systematic reviews, and for methods of increasing their reliability.

How did we get these results?

The research team held meetings with commissioners, purchasers and providers of services; compared the methods and conclusions from a range of reviews; compiled a register of effectiveness reviews; studied different strategies for literature searching and different sets of inclusion criteria; and looked at the impact of these strategies on the scope of the reviews and their recommendations for effective interventions.

This summary was prepared by the EPPI Centre

This report should be cited as: Peersman G, Harden A, Oliver S, Oakley A (1999) Effectiveness reviews in health promotion. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. 

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