Teaching school children about evidence-based medicine: Cochrane UK’s outreach programme

Since 2016, Cochrane UK has been visiting secondary schools in and around Oxford to talk about Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) and its relevance in our everyday lives. We started with visiting an after-school Science Club and now boast a growing portfolio of schools who welcome us into our classrooms.

Cochrane UK in schools

We have taught pupils from Years 9 -13 in formal lessons and in extracurricular science and medical clubs. Our talks and workshops aim to bring an awareness of why it is important to question the evidence behind medical claims. We use topical newspaper headlines to illustrate how medical evidence can be misrepresented in the media - how it can sometimes be inaccurate and sometimes just plain wrong. We also illustrate the relevance of EBM on a personal, everyday level by looking at how we choose cold remedies, to how we consider medical interventions at national and global levels, using the HPV vaccination programme as an example. We also cover what constitutes a randomised controlled trial and how a systematic review is produced.

workshop at school

Recently we organised our second half day workshop on EBM. Twenty-five Year 12 students  from local schools took part. Students were introduced to our Citizen Scientist platform Cochrane Crowd, a collaborative volunteer effort to help categorise and summarise healthcare evidence. With the students logged into Cochrane Crowd, they were challenged to screen as many abstracts as they could within 10 minutes, and they managed an impressive 300+! You can read more about the first workshop we ran, in October 2018, here

The schools outreach project now has a momentum and we are getting known in and around Oxfordshire.  We are very keen to extend the programme across the UK and would love to hear from others who might be interested in getting involved. We would be happy to give support and training, and would also share our various slide-sets and resources. Equally, we would be delighted to hear from anyone who has undertaken similar teaching to learn about your experiences.

Monday, July 22, 2019