Community Guide informs decision making, assists researchers

During an April 12 symposium on strengthening the evidence base for childhood obesity, Shawna Mercer, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), discussed the Guide to Community Preventive Services.

This presentation was part of the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s 33rd Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions, held April 11-14, in New Orleans, La.

The Guide to Community Preventive Services, or Community Guide, is a free resource intended to inform decision making. It helps communities choose programs and policies to improve health, such as preventing and decreasing obesity.

Mercer said the guide consists of systematic reviews (looking at program/policy effectiveness and applicability, economic benefit, and evidence gaps), evidence-based findings, and recommendations.

The recommendations – currently 220 – are developed by the Community Preventive Services Task Force, a nonfederal, independent, rotating body of internationally renowned experts in public health research, practice, and policy.

“The Community Guide places equal weight on systematic review methods and analysis, and our group processes (how they engage users),” said Mercer.

A primary challenge for decision makers considering community preventive services, programs, and policies is figuring out whether findings are generalizable (e.g., Is this effective? How well? For whom? What are the unanticipated outcomes, harms, and barriers?).

There are four obesity-related intervention areas for which the Task Force has made recommendations: school-based interventions, interventions to reduce screen time, coaching/counseling interventions through technology, and workplace interventions.

The gaps identified by the guide exist fall into three categories.

  1. Insufficient evidence due to few studies being completed (can’t pull things together in a meaningful away, or the few results are mixed); concerns about applicability, and potential harms
  2. Gaps where they have made recommendation based on strong or sufficient evidence, but there are applicability gaps
  3. Research gaps related to information needed to support users in implementing interventions that meet their needs

Mercer said the evidence gaps listed in the guide provide a real opportunity for childhood obesity researchers and evaluators to identify and propose areas where implementation research is needed.

For more information, check out the guide.

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