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Utilizing Evidence

While we do have an emerging evidence base for effective prevention programs, it is still relatively limited and may not be appropriate for the community you are working with. Sometimes we hear that a research evidence-base is the most important factor in programming. However here in Washington State, and many other places too, we also prioritize community specific, community-driven prevention initiatives and these do not always have an evidence-base established. This tip shares resources to learn more about different types of evidence, based in research and community expertise, that preventionists can utilize when building a program.

Evidence Based Decision-Making

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed an online interactive resource that explores a process called Evidence Based Decision-Making.

Evidence Based Decision-Making is a process for making decisions about a program, practice, or policy that is grounded in the best available research evidence and informed by experiential evidence from the field and relevant contextual evidence.

We suggest taking the 1-hour training “Understanding Evidence” to learn more about the different types of evidence, explore resources to help you gather your evidence.

Different Types of Evidence

Best Available Research Evidence

This type of information is derived from scientific inquiry that assists in determining whether or not a prevention program, practice, or policy is actually achieving its intended outcomes. Meaning, did it do what it was supposed to do?

Experiential Evidence

This type of evidence is based on the professional insight, understanding, skill, and expertise that is accumulated over time and is often referred to as intuitive or tacit knowledge. is the collective experience and expertise of those who have practiced or lived in a particular setting. It also includes the knowledge of subject matter experts. These insights, understandings, skills, and expertise are accumulated over time and are often referred to as intuitive or tacit knowledge. Experiential evidence is systematically gathered from multiple stakeholders who are familiar with a variety of key aspects about populations in specific settings who have knowledge about the community in which a prevention strategy is to be implemented (i.e., knowledge about what has/has not worked previously in a specific setting with particular populations; insight on potential implementation challenges; insight regarding the needs and challenges of the community and those who live in it). Experiential evidence provides distinctive guidance in the form of real world experience.

Contextual Evidence

This type of evidence is based on factors that address whether a strategy is useful, feasible to implement, and accepted by a particular community. It is a collection of measurable factors in the community that may impact the success of a prevention strategy (e.g., community history, organizational capacity, social norms, etc.). The role that contextual evidence plays in the evidence-based decision making process is to provide information to help determine whether a prevention strategy is likely to be acceptable, feasible, and useful in a local setting.

Related Content

  • For information about the current research evidence for effective sexual violence prevention, please see our Prevention Concepts page "Effective and Promosing Programs".


Reviewed: August 25th, 2017