How to Make Evidence-Based Decisions About COVID-19 in 2022
With all the confusion and disagreement over policy and medical decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing has proved true: there is no single ‘right’ way to approach the virus.
Chances are you’re sick and tired of thinking about the pandemic, but as many countries shift from a pandemic to an endemic approach, it’s important to make sure you and your family’s decisions about how to approach the virus are based on evidence. The following brief guide will help you learn to make evidence-based decisions quickly and accurately so that you may make decisions about COVID-19 with confidence.
What is evidence-based research?
Whether you want to become a better investor or make the ultimate sticky toffee pudding, you need to rely on research that is evidence-based.
Evidence-based research refers to research conclusions that arise from non-biased and adequately powered studies. Evidence-based research is built upon a hierarchy of knowledge. At the top of the hierarchy, you have systematic reviews, which assess the results of all studies performed on a particular subject. Below that, you have randomized-control trials, which are understood to be the most unbiased and accurate experimental designs.
Other types of experimental and non-experimental studies can also be evidence-based, but these can be more challenging to assess without significant experience and training.
How to make evidence-based decisions
You don’t need to have a postgraduate degree in research to make sound evidence-based decisions. When making a decision, follow the three steps below:
Assess the robustness of the research
To understand how likely the results of the research are to be true to the real world, there are a few things you should look at:
- Sample size. How many people were included in the study? The more, the better.
- Sample population. Did the study look at a particular age, gender, or ethnicity? If so, the results may not apply to those who do not fall into this category.
- Author credentials and affiliations. Does the author of the research have an affiliation with a company that may have biased interests? Are they well known as an expert in their field?
Look at the statistics
You don’t have to be a statistician to understand the results of a study, but some light research on statistics doesn’t hurt. In general, there are a couple of statistics you’ll want to pay attention to:
- The p-value. This tells you how significant the results were. A p-value under 0.05 indicates that the researcher can be 95 percent confident that the results are accurate not just in the study population, but in the rest of the population as well.
- The confidence interval. This tells you how confident you can be that the p-value is accurate. If the range crosses zero (i.e., -1 to +1), the p-value is essentially meaningless.
Weigh your unique level of risk
After looking at the research, you need to look at your own unique situation. Are there members of your family that you regularly see who are more susceptible to COVID-19, such as elderly relatives? This will increase risk. On the other hand, as monoclonal antibody treatment becomes more available, the risk may reduce. Take into account all these considerations when determining your level of risk.