Teaching school children about evidence-based health care: Cochrane UK’s outreach programme
Background: Since 2016, Cochrane UK has been delivering interactive sessions to teach teenagers about Evidence-Based Health Care (EBHC), its importance, and its relevance in our everyday lives.
Objectives: The sessions aim to introduce young people (particularly those interested in studying healthcare subjects at university) to Cochrane’s work by exploring what randomized controlled trials are, how systematic reviews are produced, and why they are a particularly trustworthy source of evidence. We also aim to help school children critically question the trustworthiness of claims they read or hear about health and consider how the media can misrepresent health information. We also aim to increase their understanding of the importance of using reliable, evidence-based sources of information.
Methods: We have developed the sessions with input from the whole Cochrane UK team, including experienced healthcare professionals. Typically, two members of the Cochrane UK team run the sessions, at least one of whom has experience working as a healthcare professional.
Results: As of early 2023, we have reached over 2,500 school children, the majority of whom have been 16-18 years old with an interest in studying healthcare-related subjects at university. We began by running face-to-face sessions in schools and then shifted to delivering online sessions during the pandemic. To date, we continue to predominantly deliver online sessions. We have also run sessions in partnership with Widening Access teams at various UK-based medical schools.
Conclusions: Over time, we have learned that hosting online sessions has been the most effective way to reach as broad an audience as possible. We typically advertise the talks through Cochrane UK newsletters and social media, as well as via our existing connections with schools and universities. This enables us to make the best use of resources and to reach children throughout the UK. We plan to continue this outreach work in this way. Patient, public, and/or healthcare consumer involvement: We use feedback from school children and teachers to refine these sessions, making the content more relevant and engaging over time. In this way, members of the public are directly involved in this project.