From patients and carers, to those who use health evidence as part of their daily jobs, finding, assessing and implementing the best quality information about health can be a challenge.
Studies show that many of us struggle with understanding whether evidence is of good quality or not, and at present, only a small section of people within society, mainly clinicians and researchers, are taught how to critically appraise scientific health evidence.
Understanding Health Research, developed by the University of Glasgow, is a new, free, interactive, online tool designed to help people go beyond the headlines to understand published health research for themselves.
The tool is designed to be useful for patients, carers, students, policymakers, those working in the third sector, health professionals and researchers.
It takes the form of an interactive website that guides the user through the process of understanding a piece of published health research, explaining and reinforcing key scientific concepts along the way (for example correlation vs causation).
Users are presented with step-by-step series of questions to answer about the piece of research they are interested in, and given guidance on what these questions mean, and what the ramifications of their answers may be.
The line of questioning adapts based on the answers given, and attempts to raise critical thinking around general quality criteria, such as funding sources, peer review, and ethics, as well as asking about the specific type of research being appraised.
At the end of the process, the user is provided with a summary of their answers so that they can use these to come to their own conclusions about the research they have been looking at.
You can access the tool at understandinghealthresearch.org.