A Framework for Understanding “Evidence” in Prevention Research and Programs
Published in Prevention Science, Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2003
This report provides a multidimensional framework for understanding the meaning of evidence in prevention science. Six themes comprise the framework, each with impact on the meaning of evidence.
- There are rigorous prevention scientific strategies now in use; each has shared but also unique requirements for the meaning of evidence. Some are directed at individuals, others at small social contexts, others at larger societal structures.
- The phases of prevention research have shared but also unique requirements for evidence. These include efficacy, effectiveness, sustainability, going-to-scale, and sustaining programs systemwide.
- Prevention programs address different segments of the population defined by levels of risk: the total population; a smaller subpopulation at increased risk; or a still smaller subpopulation at very high risk. The levels influence the meaning of evidence.
- Economic analysis and economic evidence must become a central part of prevention research. These are needed for appropriate policy decision making and for assessing long-term benefits.
- Collaboration is required for rigor in prevention research: including researchers, but also policy makers, program advocates and leaders, and community and institutional leaders. Broad ownership is
critical for implementing rigorous research and for sustaining program fidelity.
- Acceptance of a multidimensional framework for understanding “evidence” is essential across those agencies and institutions that carry out and/or use prevention science. The more widely the vision of the prevention field is shared, and the more the various qualities and rules of evidence are accepted and implemented, the better the quality will be of prevention research and programs.