Strapped for Time? Assess the Best Available Evidence Quickly

There is just not enough time in a day! We've all been there.

Time is limited and information overload too common. Yet, we are expected to make evidence-informed decisions in our practice. In the world of substance abuse prevention and health promotion, we try to sift through all of the available evidence (from research, practice, and other sources) to inform our practice, programme and policy decisions – especially under a time crunch or when the evidence is limited. And not all of that information is of equal relevance or quality.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) developed a framework for rapidly assessing risk (e.g. of a new drug appearing on the streets or pattern of drug use), and critically determining the quality of evidence (e.g. the methods used to gather evidence) that can be applied in the substance abuse prevention context.

Rapid risk assessment is needed to evaluate the potential risk or concern to public health, and should be based on the best available evidence to determine:

  • If a response is needed

  • The urgency and magnitude of response

  • The design and selection of intervention

  • The broader management of the incident or situation at hand

The ECDC Tool contains five sections to help provide evidence-informed advice:

  1. Background

  2. How to give evidence-based guidance when evidence is scarce and time is limited

  3. Grading evidence and making recommendations for the field of public health

  4. Assessing the quality of guideline development for health protection and control of communicable disease

  5. Evidence-based methods for public health – the use of consensus methods.

By Zach Patterson - Prevention Hub Canada