• critical appraisal;
  • evidence-based medicine;
  • financial conflicts of interest;
  • healthcare consumers;
  • study bias



Training in evidence-based medicine is most commonly offered to physicians, medical students and health-care decision-makers.

Setting and participants

We partnered with community organizations to recruit participants and develop trainings for consumers, non-physician health-care providers and journalists in California.


We conducted half-day and one-day workshops in critical appraisal of health evidence. Workshops consisted of didactic presentations, small-group practice sessions and class discussions.

Outcome measures

We measured knowledge and confidence immediately before and after the workshops and at follow-up 6 months later. We also asked participants to describe their use of health evidence before the workshops and at follow-up.


At baseline, 41% of the consumers, 45% of the providers and 57% of the journalists correctly answered questions about health evidence. Scores increased by about 20% (P < 0.05) in all groups at the end of the workshops and remained significantly over baseline at follow-up. At baseline, 26% of the participants were confident in their understanding of critical appraisal concepts, significantly increasing to 54% after the workshops and sustained (53%) at follow-up. During discussions, participants’ comments often focused on funding and the potential effects of financial conflicts of interest on study findings. Participants did not use evidence more frequently at follow-up but said that they applied workshop skills in evaluating research, communicating with others and making decisions about health care.


It is possible to successfully conduct critical appraisal workshops to aid health-related decision making for groups who have previously not had access to this kind of training.