Finding strategies in What Works for Health
What Works for Health (WWFH) is an evidence clearinghouse based on a model of population health that emphasizes factors that can make communities healthier places to live. Analysts review research to rate strategies’ effectiveness in improving health and advancing equity. Strategies include policies, programs, and systems and environmental changes. Learn more about our methods.
Using What Works for Health
Search What Works for Health by topic or keyword. Topics such as tobacco or income are useful to explore a range of related strategies. Use a keyword such as telemedicine or living wage laws to find specific strategies.
Refine a search by filtering strategies by decision maker, topic, evidence rating or goal. Within each topic, strategies are categorized by goals which reflect different ways to improve outcomes. For example, income-related strategy goals include ‘’increase or supplement income” and “support asset development.”
Find related policies and programs at the bottom of each strategy page.
Choosing a strategy
Each strategy provides in-depth information, including:
- Expected benefits (i.e., outcomes for which a strategy is rated) and other potential benefits suggested by the literature.
- An evidence rating and key points from the literature, including populations affected, key components of successful implementation and cost-related information.
- A disparity rating and key points from the literature, including disparities that a strategy could impact and context on the historical drivers of inequity.
- Examples, resources and equity-centered questions to guide implementation.
Evidence and disparity ratings
Evidence ratings can inform which strategies to consider in a community. The stronger the evidence of effectiveness, the more certain you can feel that a strategy will produce expected benefits.
- Strategies rated Scientifically Supported and Some Evidence have the strongest evidence to demonstrate their effectiveness.
- Strategies rated Expert Opinion are recommended by credible experts and based on promising theory and practice. Strategies rated Insufficient Evidence are often new or understudied and based on fewer sources of evidence.
- Strategies rated Mixed Evidence may not produce expected benefits in some circumstances and require careful consideration before implementation.
- Strategies rated Evidence of Ineffectiveness have consistently been shown to cause harm or did not work and are not good investments.
Disparity ratings summarize a strategy’s potential impact on disparities, or differences in outcomes between groups of people.
- Disparity ratings can be supported by strong evidence, some evidence, expert opinion or intervention design. Ratings supported by strong evidence have more robust studies documenting their potential impact on disparities than ratings supported by some evidence. Disparity ratings supported by some evidence, in turn, have more evidence than ratings suggested by expert opinion or intervention design.
- Sometimes there is not enough evidence to determine if a strategy has the potential to have positive or negative impacts on disparities. These strategies are rated Inconclusive Impact on Disparities.
- A strategy’s impact on disparities may change depending on how it is implemented (e.g., tailoring a strategy toward a specific population).
The less robust the body of evidence supporting a strategy, the more important it is to evaluate the effects of that strategy. Learn more about how we assign ratings here.
Considering community context
Local experts, community partners and residents can help determine the best strategy for a community. Consider the following questions:
- How similar is the community’s target population (e.g., adolescents, older adults, or people with low incomes) to the population(s) the strategy has been shown to benefit?
- How similar are the community’s goals to the outcomes the strategy has been shown to change (i.e., does the strategy's evidence rating apply to the outcome that matters to the community?)?
- Are the resources required to implement the strategy available? How much community support exists for the strategy?
Community context can also inform decisions about when to implement tested strategies and when to be more innovative. Innovation is an important approach to problem solving—all strategies rated Scientifically Supported were untested ideas at one time. Other strategies with promise might have been implemented and studied less often in the U.S. because of historic political opposition but could be worth considering.