Different scientific approaches are needed to generate stronger evidence for population health improvement

PLoS Medicine
(Accessed 1 Sep 2018)

Different scientific approaches are needed to generate stronger evidence for population health improvement
Martin White, Jean Adams
| published 28 Aug 2018 PLOS Medicine
… Broader, more nuanced, and more informative research questions cannot be answered using traditional, more simplistic approaches to evaluation. The present evidence base is significantly limited by a failure to embrace different ways of thinking and working, including addressing questions of context and those related to complex adaptive systems [17,18]. However, a consequence of taking a broader approach to evaluation that embraces complexity will be that it challenges prevailing methodological orthodoxies. Researchers, funders, and journals may all be reluctant to relinquish existing hierarchies of evidence and ‘traditional’ methods of evidence synthesis. With so many intractable global public health challenges associated with NCDs in need of robustly researched solutions, this seems short-sighted. Greater ambition and leadership are needed among researchers, funders, and policymakers to enable smarter approaches to the development and evaluation of low-agency population interventions, including taxes on unhealthy commodities, regulation of marketing, and structural interventions to make active living easier. Ambition and leadership coupled with greater international collaboration to identify opportunities for—and to coordinate efforts to fund, implement, and build capacity for—quasi-natural and natural experimental evaluations of these interventions could more rapidly advance science on NCD prevention.