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Health information is readily accessible but is of variable quality. General knowledge about how to assess whether claims about health interventions are trustworthy is not common, so people’s health decisions can be ill-informed, unnecessarily costly and even unsafe. This review aims to identify and evaluate studies of educational interventions designed to improve people’s understanding of key concepts for evaluating claims about the effects of health interventions.
We searched multiple electronic databases and sources of grey literature. Inclusion criteria included all study types that included a comparison, any participants (except health professionals or health professional students) and educational interventions aimed at improving people’s understanding of one or more of the key concepts considered necessary for assessing health intervention claims. Knowledge and/or understanding of concepts or skills relevant to evaluating health information were our primary outcome measures. Secondary outcomes included behaviour, confidence, attitude and satisfaction with the educational interventions. Two authors independently screened search results, assessed study eligibility and risk of bias and extracted data. Results were summarised using descriptive synthesis.
Among 24 eligible studies, 14 were randomised trials and 10 used other study designs. There was heterogeneity across study participants, settings and educational intervention type, content and delivery. The risk of bias was high in at least one domain for all randomised studies. Most studies measured outcomes immediately after the educational intervention, with few measuring later. In most of the comparisons, measures of knowledge and skills were better among those who had received educational interventions than among controls, and some of these differences were statistically significant. The effects on secondary outcomes were inconsistent.
Educational interventions to improve people’s understanding of key concepts for evaluating health intervention claims can improve people’s knowledge and skills, at least in the short term. Effects on confidence, attitude and behaviour are uncertain. Many of the studies were at moderate or greater risk of bias. Improvements in study quality, consistency of outcome measures and measures of longer-term effects are needed to improve confidence in estimates of the effects of educational interventions to improve people’s understanding of key concepts for evaluating health intervention claims.
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