The randomized clinical trial (RCT) research design has transformed medical research and is now accepted as the most reliable method for measuring the effects of drugs and other specific medical interventions. In this monograph the authors describe how randomized trials can be used to evaluate broader issues related to public health laws and policies.

This resource reviews the utility of randomized trials to study policy candidates, establish specific causal links and mechanisms of action, and evaluate effects of actual laws implemented in the real world. It begins by presenting the need for randomized trials to address selection bias and related challenges that arise in policy evaluation. It presents basic trial concepts such as intent-to-treat and treatment-on-the-treated effects using the example of a simplified intervention to reduce underage alcohol consumption. It explores strengths and limitations of randomized trials by discussing a successful experimental evaluation of a contingency management intervention to prevent prenatal smoking.