Prevention in public health: What works?

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No other industry of the size and complexity of the U.S. health care system operates with so little understanding of the results of its investments, Dean Julio Frenk told an audience gathered May 15, 2014 at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) for a symposium on what works in health care. “That is why comparative effectiveness research is absolutely critical,” he said.

Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) — the comparison of existing health interventions to determine which works best and provides the greatest value — gained attention when it was included as an initiative passed as part of the Affordable Care Act, but the field has a long history at the School. Efforts include the influential Center for the Evaluation of Clinical Procedures, launched in 1972, and the current work of the Center for Health Decision Science, as well as research in biostatistics, clinical epidemiology, and other departments. The School also offers training in the field through the long-running summer program in Clinical Effectivenessfor physicians. In 2010, Frenk named CER one of his Flagship Initiatives.

“We believe that public health interventions should be part of the comparative effectiveness agenda,” said Milton Weinstein in his opening remarks at the symposium, “Beyond the Affordable Care Act: What Works Best in Public Health?” Weinstein is Henry J. Kaiser Professor of Health Policy and Management and chair of the Dean’s Flagship Initiative on CER.

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