(Illustration: Key Concepts poster for secondary school. For download link, see “Posters” below)

Claims, comparisons, choices

Key Concepts 2019 (most current version, PDF)

What knowledge and skills do people need in order to be able to assess the trustworthiness of claims about treatments and make informed health choices? We have developed a list of 49 Key Concepts that are principles for evaluating the trustworthiness of treatment claims, comparisons, and choices. The concepts, organised in three groups, can help people to:

1. Recognise when a claim about the effects of treatments has an untrustworthy basis
2. Recognise when evidence from comparisons of treatments is trustworthy and when it is not
3. Make well-informed choices about treatments

(This grouping does not reflect the difficulty of the concepts or the order in which they should be learned.)

We use these concepts as a basis for developing learning resources to help people think critically about whether to believe a treatment claim and what to do. They are also the basis for an item bank of multiple-choice questions that can be used for assessing people’s ability to apply the Key Concepts.

Since the list of Key Concepts itself is not meant to be a learning resource, some parts may be difficult to understand. Rather, the list provides starting point for teachers, journalists and other intermediaries who are looking for learning resources (such as longer explanations, examples, games and interactive applications) or, like ourselves, developing new learning resources.

Key Concepts translations:
Spanish (2018 version)
Arabic (2017 version)

Developing the Key Concepts

Read a description of the Key Concepts and how they were developed.
The first version of the Key Concepts list was published in 2015 and has been updated yearly since then. Earlier versions of the Key Concepts: 2017 version,  2016 version,  2015 version, 2018 version.

Relevant across many fields

Although we have developed and framed the Key Concepts to address health treatment claims, people in other fields have also found them relevant. Work to adapt these concepts to apply to interventions in other fields is ongoing, including educational, environmental, agricultural, economic, international development, management, nutrition, planetary health, policing, social welfare, speech and language therapy, and veterinary interventions. Read our article published in Nature: “Key concepts for making informed choices”.


See our Primary school resources