What health care reform can accomplish is often the subject of intense debate. Stories used as evidence to prove a particular point of view abound by both proponents and opponents alike, say authors Amitabh Chandra and Katherine Baicker in “Evidence-Based Health Policy,” a commentary appearing in the December issue of New England Journal of Medicine. These viewpoints, however, are often anecdotal and insufficient in making their arguments, they say. “Voters, physicians, and policymakers are left to wade through a jumble of anecdotes, aspirations, associations, and well-designed studies as they try to evaluate policy alternatives,” say Chandra, of the Harvard Kennedy School and Baicker of the University of Chicago.
The authors call for employing a rational approach to making policy choices and present a framework for distinguishing what is and isn’t evidence-based health policy (EBHP). They recommend three “essential characteristics” for identifying evidence-based policies: They must be specific enough that policy makers can understand their effectiveness, distinguishable as a policy and not a goal, and well-defined about the magnitude of the effects of the policy.