State legislators’ sources and use of information: bridging the gap between research and policy

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Abstract

Research can inform policymakers of public health issues and shape policy decisions, hopefully benefiting public health; thus, improving dissemination of research to policymakers is important for developing effective public health policies that improve health and health equity. However, the utilization of research among policymakers is often not fully realized. This study builds upon current knowledge about what types of information legislators seek when working on health issues and where they go for information. Further, it explores what kinds of information legislators find most helpful and if there are ways researchers could better provide this evidence. Key-informant interviews were conducted with 25 U.S. state legislators holding health committee leadership positions between July and November, 2010. Regarding types of information sought, most legislators discussed their desire for data and statistics when working on health-related issues. When asked about their most trusted sources of information, participants mentioned government sources as well as advocacy, lobby and industry groups. A few mentioned universities and healthcare professionals. Results from this study offer public health researchers and practitioners’ insights into the types of information that may be most helpful to policymakers. Insights gathered may improve the dissemination of research and bridge the gap between knowledge users and knowledge producers.

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