Home > Accessing evidence to inform public health policy: a study to enhance advocacy.

Tabak, R G and Eyler, A A and Dodson, E A and Brownson, R C (2015) Accessing evidence to inform public health policy: a study to enhance advocacy. Public Health, 129, (6), pp. 698-704. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2015.02.016.

External website: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC44754...

OBJECTIVES: Improving population health often involves policy changes that are the result of complex advocacy efforts. Information exchanges among researchers, advocates, and policymakers is paramount to policy interventions to improve health outcomes. This information may include evidence on what works well for whom and cost-effective strategies to improve outcomes of interest. However, this information is not always readily available or easily communicated. The purposes of this paper are to describe ways advocates seek information for health policy advocacy and to compare advocate demographics.

STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional telephone survey.
METHODS: Seventy-seven state-level advocates were asked about the desirable characteristics of policy-relevant information including methods of obtaining information, what makes it useful, and what sources make evidence most reliable/trustworthy. Responses were explored for the full sample and variety of subsamples (i.e. gender, age, and position on social and fiscal issues). Differences between groups were tested using t-tests and one-way analysis of variance.

RESULTS: On average, advocates rated frequency of seeking research information as 4.3 out of five. Overall, advocates rated the Internet as the top source, rated unbiased research and research with relevancy to their organization as the most important characteristics, and considered information from their organization as most reliable/believable. When ratings were examined by subgroup, the two characteristics most important for each question in the total sample (listed above) emerged as most important for nearly all subgroups.

CONCLUSIONS: Advocates are a resource to policymakers on health topics in the policy process. This study, among the first of its kind, found that advocates seek research information, but have a need for evidence that is unbiased and relevant to their organizations and report that university-based information is reliable. Researchers and advocates should partner so research is useful in advocating for evidence-based policy change.

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