Evidence & Innovation


What existing evidence-based approaches and best practices worth adopting?

Evidence-based strategies and approaches go beyond simply proven effective programs (also known as evidence-based programs or interventions). “Evidence” includes a variety of possible strategies and approaches:

  • Using a needs and resource assessment
  • Using a logic model to identify goals, behaviors, and risk and protective factors (or determinants), based on the assessment
  • Using health behavior change theory/theories
  • Using proven effective, or evidence-based programs and interventions
  • Using common characteristics of other proven effective, or evidence-based programs
  • Conducting process and outcome evaluation
Want to know more about effective programs? Check out our interactive elearning module on Evidence-Based Interventions!

The gold standard for proven effective interventions are usually called Evidence-Based Interventions (EBIs) (also known as evidence-based programs, or EBPs), which are programs that have been rigorously evaluated to show change in sexual risk-taking behaviors (such as having sex, having multiple partners, or using condoms correctly and consistently).

Using an intervention that is proven to work is useful not only because of the potential outcomes for participants, but also because it adds a level of quality assurance when you plan how to spend your resources.

To review EBIs, you can consult these lists of programs that will outline which programs available are effective and why:

However, not all high quality programs are EBPs. Some interventions simply haven’t been rigorously evaluated yet and that’s ok (depending on what your funding requirements are). Programs like this are sometimes called “innovative” or “promising.” There are ways to review if a program is still both based in what research says works and is a good fit for your population.

The Tool to Assess the Characteristics of Effective Sex and STD/HIV Education Programs (TAC) is a tool based on the report, Sex Education and HIV Programs for Youth: Their Impact and Important Characteristics. The TAC is designed to help you assess whether an existing program has incorporated the common characteristics of effective programs. A curriculum-based program that incorporates the 17 Characteristics, but has not yet been rigorously evaluated is considered an innovative (or promising) program.  The TAC is available in both English and Spanish.

Other times, consulting best practices for working in a particular setting or with certain populations can be useful. For example, clinics might not seek out a specific intervention, but consider reviewing youth-friendly clinical service standards and client-centered services approaches.

What if I’m already running a program?

If you are looking to improve or expand an existing program, take this time to compare your current work with what research says is successful. This is an opportunity to strengthen your current work, making sure that your services apply what research shows is most effective. (See also: Framework)

Benefits to Selecting and Implementing an Evidence-Based Intervention

Using an EBI or applying research-based best practices shows funders and your community that your programming is applying what the research field has to offer and that your work is likely to make a difference in the health of the teens you serve.

How to Ensure You’re Using Best Practices
  1. Review lists and resources on available evidence-based and innovative programs that may meet the needs of your priority population.
  2. Narrow your search by selecting 2 – 4 candidate programs to explore further. Focus on programs that were effective for youth similar in age, ethnicity, and gender to your participants and that led to outcomes similar to those outlined in your goals and objectives.
  3. If necessary, talk with program leaders in the field to learn more about what makes certain interventions effective and how you can apply that to the population you serve.
  4. If you have an existing program, find ways to strengthen it, using the features of EBIs and other research.
What’s Next?


 What If I’m Not Ready for This Step?



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