Key messages

  • External sources of evidence provide invaluable resources in the development of policy and evaluation of projects.
  • There are systematic reviews and economic evaluations.

These selected external sources of evidence include systematic reviews, economic evaluations and other sources of evidence.

Systematic reviews

A systematic review is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review.

Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may be used to analyse and summarise the results of the included studies.

Centre for Reviews and Dissemination databases

These databases confirm that the review is actually a systematic review, and give a summary and critical appraisal of the review. Of particular interest are the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness (DARE) and the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Database.

The databases will give you the reference for the review itself (and possibly a web link) but you will need to track down the actual review yourself. The DARE database also includes Cochrane Collaboration systematic reviews.

Cochrane Library

The Cochrane Library is an online collection of evidence-based databases that contain different types of high quality, independent evidence to inform healthcare decision making. It includes the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, which includes all Cochrane Collaboration systematic reviews and protocols. It also includes the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination databases and the Cochrane Central register of controlled trials.

Campbell Library

The Campbell Collaboration (C2) helps people make well-informed decisions by preparing, maintaining and disseminating systematic reviews in education, crime and justice and social welfare. The Campbell Collaboration uses methods, processes and structures similar to the Cochrane Collaboration but also covers social interventions, while Cochrane focuses on healthcare interventions.

Effective Public Health Practice Project

The Effective Public Health Practice Project conducts systematic reviews on the effectiveness of public health interventions and summarises recent, high quality reviews produced by others.

Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Coordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre)

The EPPI-Centre enables searching for systematic reviews across a wide range of topic areas, using keywords and topic areas.

Health-evidence Canada

Health-evidence Canada facilitates the adoption and implementation of effective policies, programs and interventions at the local and regional public health decision-making levels. It includes methodologically sound reviews of health promotion and public health interventions published from 1985 to the present. Search fields include topic area, population characteristics, review type, intervention strategies and intervention location.

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence

The National Institute provides published public health guidance. To find the reviews underpinning the guidance, select the topic of interest and go down to the ‘Background information’ section. The institute’s guidance is based on the best evidence and is transparent in its development, consistent, reliable and based on a rigorous development process.

Guide to Community Preventive Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Guide to Community Preventive Services can help you choose programs and policies to improve health and prevent disease in your community. The systematic reviews conducted for the guide can be found by selecting the topic and then following the links under ‘Community Guide Systematic Reviews’ for the intervention of interest.

Economic evaluations

Economic evaluation is the comparison of two or more alternative courses of action in terms of both their costs and consequences (Drummond et al.). Economists usually distinguish several types of economic evaluation, differing in how consequences (or benefits) are measured. These include: cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis and cost-utility analysis.

NHS Economic Evaluation Database - Centre for Reviews and Dissemination database

This database will confirm whether the study is actually an economic evaluation and not just a study of costs or valuation of outcomes. The site gives a summary and critical appraisal of the study, along with the reference for the study itself (and possibly a URL), but you will need to track down the actual review yourself.

Paediatric Economic Database Evaluation (PEDE)

This database only includes economic evaluations of paediatric populations. Cost analyses, cost descriptions or cost-of-illness studies are not included. A reference to the original study is included but you will need to track it down yourself.

Other sources of evidence


Canadian Best Practices Portal for Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention

Cochrane Public Health Review Group

WHO-Evidence Briefs for policy

The Sax Institute - Evidence Check Reviews