Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Assessment of Social Services (SBU)
“Independent assessments supporting decision-making in both social services and health care“
History, structure and governance
SBU is a Health Technology Assessment (HTA) organisation that was established in 1987 focusing only on health care. In 2015, SBU was commissioned to also include social services.
SBU is governed by a Director General and a Board of Directors. The members of the Board are directly appointed by the Swedish government and represent decision-makers in the fields of health care and social services in Sweden including the chairman of the Swedish union for social workers, and the CEO of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions. SBU is also supported by a Scientific Advisory Committee, comprising 20 senior academics with expert knowledge in the primary SBU research fields.
SBU’s task is to critically review the scientific basis for methods used in health care, dentistry, working environment practise, social services and disability care.
Apart from systematic reviews on beneficial and harmful effects of methods (interventions, services, practices, technologies), assessments also include economic and ethical analysis. Where appropriate, organisational and legal aspects are also included in the reviews. In addition to synthesis of effects, the reviews can also cover diagnosis, risk assessment, prevention and risk factors. The reports can focus on quantitative as well as qualitative study methodology, although up until now most reports have had a quantitative focus.
Over the years, new products have been added, for example the SBU´s enquiry service. This service aims to support more regional needs by disclosing evidence gaps and thereby avoiding research waste as well as providing policy support, which is an adaptation to the strict time requirements of government commissions.
How SBU works
Although anyone may suggest a topic for an SBU assessment, most proposals are initiated by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs or by governmental agencies, especially the National Board of Health and Welfare, which is the major agency producing guidelines for the health care and social services.
The review work is undertaken by project teams at SBU, which consist of several researchers with expert knowledge of the investigated topic, and SBU staff who guarantee that systematic reviews comply with Cochrane and Campbell collaboration standards. The work is guided by a handbook and coding templates. The review work passes numerous auditing steps intended to ensure high quality of the finally published reports. For instance, SBU assessments include several checkpoints including an internal quality assurance committee, the Scientific Advisory Committee, as well as external expert reviewers. Finally, the conclusions in the reports must be approved by the Board. Thereafter, the report is published on the SBU public website.
Areas encompassed in Social Intervention Assessment
In principle, all areas of social services are included in the SBU projects: Children, youth & family, juvenile delinquency, mental health, elderly care, housing, unemployment and disability care.
SBU is commissioned to only publish research results, not to issue guidelines or implement evidence. The reports are to be published in Swedish. To enhance international sharing of the results, an English summary of each SBU Assessment is published on the website. The authors are encouraged to also publish the reports in English. Approximately a quarter of the publications are published in peer-review journals. Moreover, the English summaries of all SBU Assessments and SBU Evidence maps are published in PubMed. The number of unique visitors to the SBU website was 1,617,000 in the year of 2021.
On top of the SBU agenda are international collaboration to identify more effective strategies for literature search and economic evaluations of social service interventions. SBU reports are no longer printed, only available on the SBU website. SBU will also focus on more easily accessible and usable channels of communication e.g., short-films and what works-lists.
Population (2021): 10 452 000
Population served (mil): 9.7
Current SBU budget (mil Euro): 12
Permanent staff: 90, of which 10 exclusively work with social services.
Consultants: 200 ad hoc
Ongoing SIA projects (sept 2022): 4
Director General: Britta Björkholm
Contact person: Sophie Werkö
Swedish Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Assessment of Social Services
P.O. Box 6183
S-102 33 Stockholm Sweden
Tel: +46 8 412 3200