What does ‘evidence-based’ actually mean and why is it important?
21st September 2023
Written by HRS Communications
We hear the term ‘evidence-based’ a lot within the health and nutrition industry. But what does this mean and why is it important? This blog will explain where to find evidence-based information, how to assess the quality of evidence and how HRS Communications can help your brand.
Credible, reliable science
Evidence-based means that information and advice given is backed up and supported by scientific research. As technology advances and more knowledge is discovered, scientific research is constantly updated and refreshed. This is why it is not only important to know how to find credible, reliable sources, but to keep up-to-date with them, too.
Where to find evidence-based information
There are many resources that can be used with the assurance that the information being absorbed can be relied upon. You can find evidence-based information in academic textbooks, published books, peer-reviewed scientific journals using databases such as PubMed, on the internet, and even on social media. The importance, however, is ensuring that this information is credible, reliable, and accurate. Here are some things to consider when you come across evidence-based information:
- Who is providing the information/advice and what are their credentials? Are they a registered dietitian/nutritionist or a reputable scientist with relevant, accredited qualifications?
- What is the quality of scientific evidence? Even when something claims to be evidence-based, applying critical thinking skills is essential. Consider the study design (e.g., the number of participants and whether the research was sponsored).1-2.
The hierarchy of evidence
The hierarchy of evidence is a framework used to rank the quality and strength of research. It highlights that not all evidence has the same level of quality or reliability. It is generally agreed that randomised control trials (RCTs) and systematic reviews of RCTs are the gold-standard of research as reflected in the hierarchy of evidence pyramid.
The further down the pyramid, the weaker the level of scientific evidence. Observational studies are lower in strength and quality (at best suggesting a correlation between two variables), and at the bottom of the pyramid sits expert opinion and background information – this is anecdotal experience rather that scientific evidence.
Scientific research is essential for improving overall population health; however, the way scientific information is communicated is fundamental to conveying the correct message. Unfortunately, there is a lot of miscommunication and misinformation in the world of medicine, health, and nutrition. In most cases, it is not intended to be harmful to the consumer and the information giver may not be aware that the information they are sharing is incorrect. This highlights the importance of critically analysing information – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Over the past few years, we have seen a rise in influencers sharing health information on online platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. These platforms can be brilliant tools to use for publishing new data and for marketing and advertisement purposes, however, here at HRS Communications we strongly believe it is vital to maintain integrity on these platforms and ensure that brands are sharing credible, accurate and evidence-based information.
How can we help?
Cutting out jargon and translating complex science into easy-to-understand messages is an essential skill in scientific communications. HRS Communications has an expert team of trained professionals adept at providing reliable, evidence-based information to support your business. Our multidisciplinary team includes healthcare professionals and medical writers from evidence-based backgrounds (e.g., Registered Dietitians, Doctors, and Academic Researchers). We are proficient at researching and disseminating science communications and we always use up-to-date, credible information to help your business thrive. Our approach is based on high-quality, scientific evidence and our expert team consistently delivers outstanding services.
This article has been written in collaboration with one of the HRS Communications Interns, Bells Hann.
- National Library of Medicine (2016) What types of studies are there? [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK390304/ [Accessed: 15 September 2023]
- BMJ Best Practice (2023) What is the best evidence and how to find it. [online] Available at: https://bestpractice.bmj.com/info/toolkit/discuss-ebm/what-is-the-best-evidence-and-how-to-find-it/ [Accessed: 15 September 2023]