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Evaluating diabetes health policies using natural experiments: the natural experiments for translation in diabetes study

The high prevalence and costs of type 2 diabetes makes it a rapidly evolving focus of policy action. Health systems, employers, community organizations, and public agencies have increasingly looked to translate the benefits of promising research interventions into innovative policies intended to prevent or control diabetes. Though guided by research, these health policies provide no guarantee of effectiveness and may have opportunity costs or unintended consequences. Natural experiments use pragmatic and available data sources to compare specific policies to other policy alternatives or predictions of what would likely have happened in the absence of any intervention. The Natural Experiments for Translation in Diabetes (NEXT-D) Study is a network of academic, community, industry, and policy partners, collaborating to advance the methods and practice of natural experimental research, with a shared aim of identifying and prioritizing the best policies to prevent and control diabetes. This manuscript describes the NEXT-D Study group’s multi-sector natural experiments in areas of diabetes prevention or control as case examples to illustrate the selection, design, analysis, and challenges inherent to natural experimental study approaches to inform development or evaluation of health policies.

Authors: Ackermann RT; Kenrik Duru O; Albu JB; Schmittdiel JA; Soumerai SB; Wharam JF; Ali MK; Mangione CM; Gregg EW; NEXT-D Study Group

Am J Prev Med. 2015 Jun;48(6):747-54.

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