Using What Works for Health


The research underlying What Works for Health is based on a model of population health that emphasizes the many factors that can make communities healthier places to live, learn, work, and play. In What Works for Health, analysts review and assess research to rate the effectiveness of a broad variety of strategies (i.e., policies, programs, systems & environmental changes) that can affect health through changes to:

  • health behaviors
  • clinical care
  • social and economic factors
  • the physical environment

Strategies focused on specific diseases or conditions, treatment or other clinical protocol, and federal funding initiatives are generally not included in What Works for Health.

How to Find Policies and Programs

You can search What Works for Health by key word or filter the full list of strategies to browse by decision maker, health factor, or evidence rating. Within each health factor, strategies are categorized by approach (e.g., in Income, strategies are grouped under ‘Increase or supplement income’ and ‘Support asset development’). Each approach reflects a different way to improve outcomes.

Individual strategy pages provide in-depth information for each policy and program listed in What Works for Health, including:

  • Expected beneficial outcomes (i.e., outcomes for which a strategy is rated)
  • Other potential benefits suggested in our literature review
  • Key points from relevant literature (e.g., populations affected, key components of successful implementation, cost-related information, etc.) 
  • Examples, toolkits, and other information to assist in implementation 
  • An indication of the strategy's likely impact on disparities.

At the bottom of each strategy page, you'll find related policies and programs - these might be of interest, too.

Citations are included throughout the strategy pages; direct links to cited articles are available as permitted by copyright.

How Do You Choose?

When selecting strategies for your community, evidence of effectiveness is one of many factors to consider. Community ‘fit,’ priorities, and resources available are also important considerations. See Choosing Your Strategy for more.

What if You Don’t Find What You are Looking for?

You might need new search terms - synonyms, related words, or root causes. You can also browse relevant health factors.

At the bottom of each strategy page, you’ll find related policies and programs that may be of interest.

What Works for Health is always a work in progress. If you are interested in learning about a strategy that could improve health in your community but don’t find it here, let us know so we can consider adding it in the future.