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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 17, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 15
 
Free Evidence-Based Health Care Course Offered by Johns Hopkins

By Kenna Lowe
Bloomberg School of Public Health

The United States Cochrane Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health launched this year a free online course called "Understanding Evidence-Based Health Care: A Foundation for Action." While the course is open to anyone who wishes to enroll, it was expressly designed for consumer advocates in all areas of health care.

The center at Johns Hopkins is one of 12 worldwide participating in the Cochrane Collaboration, which promotes resources that examine the benefits and risks of health care to help people make well-informed decisions about their health.

Kay Dickersin, a professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Epidemiology, is director of the United States Cochrane Center, which is "spearheading the use of evidence-based health care for health decision–making."

"Evidence-based health care integrates the best available research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values. We are working to engage patients and consumers as full partners in this new model for health care," Dickersin said. "We want consumer advocates to successfully navigate the world of medical information and be able to critically assess results from research studies. With the knowledge they gain from our course, they will positively influence responsible public health care policy and help the people they serve to make evidence-based health care choices."

The online course was developed by Dickersin and Musa Mayer, a breast cancer survivor, author and advocate, who is the lecturer. It consists of six modules that illustrate key concepts in evidence- based health care through real-world examples. In all, the modules — an introduction to evidence-based health care; the importance of research questions; research design, bias and levels of evidence; searching for health care information; understanding health care statistics; and critical appraisal of research articles — include five to six hours of lectures and case studies, divided into 10- to-15-minute segments.

"Every day, an overwhelming amount of health care information appears in the media," Mayer said. "Much is oversimplification or outright marketing. Consumer advocates may be forced to rely on media reports if they don't know how to find or recognize high-quality research evidence. We want advocates to have the tools they need to understand how scientific research is conducted and how real advances in medicine are actually made. Whether advocates are helping people to make difficult health care decisions, sitting at tables where scientific and research decisions are made or trying to influence public policy, learning these skills will empower all of our work."

The course is available through the Bloomberg School's public health work force training management system, known as TRAMS. Additional information is available at www.cochrane.us.

The course was funded in part by a grant from the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.

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