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Table 1 Criteria for identifying priority risk factors from risk factor literature

From: Preventing mental illness: closing the evidence-practice gap through workforce and services planning

Entry criteria  
▪ Modifiability The risk factor is, at least in theory, modifiable
Other necessary criteria  
▪ The relationship between the risk factor and adult mental illness is causal Established mechanism of action: There are clear mechanisms by which the risk factor influences outcomes (e.g. established biological pathways)
Temporality: The risk or protective factor precedes the outcome.
Dose–response: Poorer mental illness outcomes associated with increased exposure to risk factor
▪ Size of effect Strength and Consistency: Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have demonstrated that the risk or protective factor is a strong and consistent predictor of adult mental illness outcomes.
Prevalence of risk factor: the more common the risk factor the greater will be its contribution to incidence and burden (all else equal)
Multifinality: The risk factor features in the aetiology of multiple mental illness outcomes (e.g. different disorders) and therefore its modification may influence multiple outcomes.
Health inequalities: the risk factor is found to be unjustly distributed in certain population groups.
▪ Identifiability The risk factor can be identified in the population through screening and surveillance.
Desirable criteria  
▪ Intervention opportunities Evidence base for interventions: There are efficacious, effective and/or cost-effective interventions that modify the risk factor.
Clustering: The risk factor clusters with other known risk factors for the outcome, suggesting interventions may be able to target multiple risk factors at the same time.