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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Better Access to Data for Policymakers Can Improve Health Policy

State legislators want unbiased and current local health data when deciding how to formulate and vote on health-related policy, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

[Photo: Dr. Elizabeth Dodson]

Researchers interviewed 25 legislators from 12 states to find out where they sought information. The legislators held leadership positions on health or public health legislative committees.

Most said they wanted data, while some said they liked to pair the data with personal testimony. Over half reported that they often begin their searches for information on the Internet. Many said they had trouble finding unbiased, accurate current local and economic data.

That gap provides an opportunity for researchers, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Elizabeth A. Dodson, research assistant professor at the Brown School. “Communicating regularly with policymakers can allow researchers to have a clear sense of what policy makers are working on and why types of information they need,” she wrote.

“By producing clear, timely and unbiased data and disseminating it in ways most accessible to policymakers, public health professionals may improve the uptake of evidence into state policymaking.”

The paper was published October 15 in Health Education Research.

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