University of Washington School of Public Health

UW SPH News: Study Cites Lack of Support to Turn Nutrition Research into Policy

Study Cites Lack of Support to Turn Nutrition Research into Policy

06/17/2015
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Everyone agrees science should be at the policy table, researchers say. But little research has been conducted into what works best when it comes to improving the links between policymakers and public health nutrition and obesity investigators.

Study authors led by Jennifer Otten of the UW School of Public Health sought input from researchers who were highly involved in communicating with policymakers. Eighteen semi-structured interviews were conducted between 2011 and 2013. The results were published in Preventing Chronic Disease, a journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers found a wide variation in practices, along with mixed beliefs about whether and when researchers should be engaging with policymakers. Some of the barriers to policy communication – especially in an academic setting – included lack of formal training and a "promotion process and professional culture that does not value the practice," the study says.

"Facilitators" to overcoming these barriers include a personal desire to "make a difference," institutional-level support for training and mentoring in policy communication, and research-driven incentives, such as requirements from funders to orient research in policy-informing ways and to engage with communities.

Otten, assistant professor of health services, also was co-author of an essay in the journal on elevating the impact of nutrition and obesity policy research and evaluation.