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Evidence-Based Disability and Disease Prevention for Elders

Setting the Stage


Lynda A. Anderson, Ph.D., Senior Health Scientist and Acting Chief, Health Care and Aging Studies, Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA.

Janelle Guirguis-Blake, M.D., Program Director, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Center for Primary Care, Prevention and Clinical Partnerships/AHRQ, Rockville, MD.

What is Evidence-based Public Health?

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Partnership for Solutions defines chronic conditions as a condition that lasts a year or longer, limits what one can do, and/or may require ongoing medical care.

Citing the work of Ross Brownson, Dr. Anderson defined evidence-based public health as "the development, implementation and evaluation of effective programs and policies in public health through application of principles of scientific reasoning, including systemic uses of data and information systems, and appropriate use of behavioral science theory and program planning models."

Brownson has identified five key characteristics of evidence-based public health programs:

  • Intervention approaches are developed based on the best possible scientific information.
  • Theory and systemic planning approaches are followed.
  • Problem solving is multi-disciplinary and involves understanding who it is you are serving.
  • Sound evaluation principles are followed.
  • Results are shared with others who need to know and take action.

Dr. Guirguis-Blake noted that a solid evidence base can help to direct resources towards effective community and clinical preventive strategies. They can also be used by policymakers and program staff to frame program objectives, address the drivers of costs, develop and refine evaluation and data collection plans, and shape research priorities.

Who Benefits from Evidence-based Disability and Disease Prevention?

People with chronic diseases living in the community benefit from evidence-based practices that allow people to better manage their chronic conditions, improve their health, and reduce the need for medical intervention. Proactive efforts to reduce risks of disease and disability improve quality of life. Reduced utilization of medical and social services provide cost reduction benefits to supplying organizations.

What Are Some Sources of Evidence-based Research?

  • The State of Aging and Health in America. Merck Institute of Aging and Health and the Gerontological Society of America. November 19, 2004. This report includes a national and state-by-state Report Card on Healthy Aging. The Report Card includes 10 key indicators related to health behaviors, preventive care and cancer screening, and fall-related deaths and injuries.
  • AHRQ's National Guidelines Clearinghouse™ synthesizes and disseminates the clinical guidelines of various organizations and is designed to highlight both consensus and differences among clinical recommendations.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (UPSTF) ( consists of panels of experts who evaluate the scientific evidence obtained from systematic reviews of preventive services delivered in primary care settings.

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