Community Forum Deliberative Demonstration

Public deliberation—a way to capture in-depth perspectives on controversial issues—effectively provides informed public views on complex health policy issues, such as the role of medical evidence in treatment decisions, according to new AIR study published in

Social Science & Medicine.

Conducted as part of the Deliberative Methods Demonstration funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the AIR study is among the first large-scale randomized controlled trials of alternative methods of public deliberation and included 1,338 people assigned to take part in one of four deliberative methods or to a reading-materials-only control group.

The participants all considered the same health policy issue: “Should individual patients and/or their doctors be able to make any health decisions no matter what the evidence of medical effectiveness shows, or should society ever specify some boundaries for these decisions?”

Compared to the control group, public deliberation increased participants’ knowledge of medical evidence and comparative effectiveness research and shifted their attitudes about the importance of medical evidence in treatment decisions, according to the study.

The results of a related AIR analysis published in the February Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved underscore the value of public deliberation as an effective way to gather diverse public input, including views of people from differing racial and ethnic backgrounds and education levels. The study found that regardless of race, ethnicity or educational attainment, participants showed similar increases in knowledge following deliberation.

Both the Social Science & Medicine study, titled “Effectiveness of Public Deliberation Methods for Gathering Input on Issues in Healthcare: Results from a Randomized Trial,” and the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved study, titled “Deliberation: Obtaining Informed Input from a Diverse Public,” are available online, along with a fact sheet,  Public Deliberation: Bringing Common Sense to Complex Health Policy Issues, explaining more about public deliberation and the study findings.