We have prepared a list of Key Concepts that people need to apply to assess claims about the effects of a treatment (any action intended to improve health). The list includes three groups of concepts:
• Claims: are they justified?
• Comparisons: are they fair and reliable?
• Choices: make informed choices
The first group includes concepts necessary to help people recognise common assumptions underlying unreliable claims about the effects of treatments; e.g. why an anecdotal experience or an association is an unreliable basis for a claim.
The second group includes concepts necessary to assess evidence about the effects of treatments; e.g. why unfair comparisons and small studies can be misleading.
The third group includes concepts necessary to make informed choices beyond assessing the reliability of claims or evidence; e.g. why surrogate outcomes can be misleading and why it is important to always consider the balance between advantages and disadvantages of treatments.
A description of how we prepared the initial list of 32 concepts can be found here. We are continuing to develop the list and have added two more concepts based on feedback from users.
The list serves as a syllabus for identifying the resources needed to help people understand and apply the concepts.
We have written the concepts and explanations in plain language. However, some of these concepts may be unfamiliar and difficult to understand. We did not design the list as a teaching tool. It is a framework, or starting point, for teachers, journalists and other intermediaries for identifying and developing resources (such as longer explanations, examples, games and interactive applications) to help people to understand and apply the concepts.
The concepts in this list are universally relevant. However, our initial focus has been on concepts that are important and possible to teach or communicate to children and poorly educated adults living in low-income countries.