The evidence-based approach in health policy and health care delivery

Louis W. Niessen, Els W.M. Grijseels, Frans F.H. Rutten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


Evidence-based approaches are prominent on the national and international agendas for health policy and health research. It is unclear what the implications of this approach are for the production and distribution of health in populations, given the notion of multiple determinants in health. It is equally unclear what kind of barriers there are to the adoption of evidence-based approaches in health care practice. This paper sketches some developments in the way in which health policy is informed by the results from health research. It summarises evidence-based approaches in health at three impact levels: intersectoral assessment, national health care policy, and evidence-based medicine in everyday practice. Consensus is growing on the role of broad and specific health determinants, including health care, as well as on priority setting based on the burden of diseases. In spite of methodological constraints, there is a demand for intersectoral assessments, especially in health sector reform. Initiators of policy changes in other sectors may be held responsible for providing the evidence related to health. There are limited possibilities for priority setting at the national health care policy level. Hence, there is a decentralisation of responsibilities for resource use. Health care providers are encouraged to assume agency roles for both patients and society and asked to promote and deliver effective and efficient health care. Governments will have to design a national framework to facilitate their organisation and legal framework to enhance evidence-based health policy. Treatment guidelines supported by evidence on effectiveness and efficiency will be one essential element in this process. With the increasing number of advocates for the enhancement of population health in the policy arenas, evidence-based approaches provide the information and some of the tools to help with priority setting. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)859-869
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 15 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Evidence-based policy
  • Guidelines
  • Health determinants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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