Using Obesity Research to Shape Obesity Policy in Minnesota: Stakeholder Insights and Feasibility of Recommendations
Preventing childhood obesity requires innovative, evidence-based policy approaches. This study examines the use of research evidence by obesity policy stakeholders in Minnesota and develops pilot tools for communicating timely evidence to policymakers.Design, Setting, and Participants:
From November 2012 to January 2013, semistructured interviews were conducted with 51 Minnesota stakeholders in childhood obesity prevention. Interviewees included 16 state legislators and staff; 16 personnel from the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Department of Health, and Minnesota Department of Transportation; and 19 advocates for and against childhood obesity prevention legislation (response rate = 71%).Main Outcome Measures:
Participants were asked their views on 3 themes: (1) Whether and how they used research evidence in their current decision-making processes; (2) barriers to using research evidence for policymaking; and (3) suggestions for improving the evidence translation process. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. A team approach to qualitative analysis was used to summarize themes, compare findings across interviewees' professional roles, and highlight unexpected findings, areas of tension, or illuminating quotes.Results:
Stakeholders used research evidence to support policy decisions, educate the public, and overcome value-based arguments. Common challenges included the amount and complexity of research produced and limited relationships between researchers and decision makers. Responding to interviewee recommendations, we developed and assessed 2 pilot tools: a directory of research experts and a series of research webinars on topics related to childhood obesity. Stakeholders found these materials relevant and high-quality but expressed uncertainty about using them in making policy decisions.Conclusions:
Stakeholders believe that research evidence should inform the design of programs and policies for childhood obesity prevention; however, many lack the time and resources to consult research consistently. Future efforts to facilitate evidence-informed policymaking should emphasize approaches to designing and presenting research that better meets the needs of policy and programmatic decision makers.