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BMC Health Serv Res. 2014 Nov 14;14:564. doi: 10.1186/s12913-014-0564-7.

Training needs and supports for evidence-based decision making among the public health workforce in the United States.



Preparing the public health workforce to practice evidence-based decision making (EBDM) is necessary to effectively impact health outcomes. Few studies report on training needs in EBDM at the national level in the United States. We report competency gaps to practice EBDM based on four U.S. national surveys we conducted with the state and local public health workforce between 2008 and 2013.


We compared self-reported data from four U.S. national online surveys on EBDM conducted between 2008 and 2013. Participants rated the importance of each EBDM competency then rated how available the competency is to them when needed on a Likert scale. We calculated a gap score by subtracting availability scores from importance scores. We compared mean gaps across surveys and utilized independent samples t tests and Cohen's d values to compare state level gaps. In addition, participants in the 2013 state health department survey selected and ranked three items that "would most encourage you to utilize EBDM in your work" and items that "would be most useful to you in applying EBDM in your work". We calculated the percentage of participants who ranked each item among their top three.


The largest competency gaps were consistent across all four surveys: economic evaluation, communicating research to policymakers, evaluation designs, and adapting interventions. Participants from the 2013 state level survey reported significantly larger mean importance and availability scores (p <0.001, d =1.00, and p <0.001, dā€‰=ā€‰.78 respectively) and smaller mean gaps (p <0.01, dā€‰=ā€‰.19) compared to the 2008 survey. Participants most often selected "leaders prioritizing EBDM" (67.9%) among top ways to encourage EBDM use. "EBDM training for specific areas" was most commonly ranked as important in applying EBDM (64.3%).


Perceived importance and availability of EBDM competencies may be increasing as supports for EBDM continue to grow through trends in funding, training, and resources. However, more capacity building is needed overall, with specific attention to the largest competency gaps. More work with public health departments to both situate trainings to boost competency in these areas and continued improvements for organizational practices (leadership prioritization) are possible next steps to sustain EBDM efforts.


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