With the entry of public health into sexual violence prevention and with the goals of creating prevention programs that actually work, we hear a lot about selecting “evidence based” prevention programs. If we define evidence based as those programs that have randomized clinical trials published in peer reviewed journals, we find little or no programs that meet that standard. (Some consider SAFE DATES to meet that standard. There is current research being conducted across many sites Many others express concerns about that program – I’ll leave that for another blog post.]
I believe that for the sexual violence prevention and violence against women field, we are in an “evidence building” process. I value evidence beyond that which is from research studies.
I am in the middle of preparing a Prevention Connection web conference for state health departments and state sexual assault coalitions with Wendi Siebold on the topic How to Draw Upon Evidence and Lessons Learned to Advance Primary Prevention Practice. In preparing for this web conference I learned about some work being done at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that highlights “evidence-informed decision-making.”
I think this is very helpful because it deals with a reality that all of us face: we must make program decisions whether we are creating a new prevention program or adapting an existing program. We need to draw upon evidence: not only research evidence but also our expertise from doing this work and “contextual evidence” – that is what we know about the environment such as community, culture, or available resources.
I think we need to identify these many types of evidence, including but not exclusively research-based evidence, to help us make decisions on the design and implementation of our prevention programs.