Healthy Start: Children as Targets for Preventing Disease in Adult Life

Under what circumstances do state policymakers use research evidence as a basis for children and youth’s public health initiatives?

State policymakers are exposed to a wealth of information by various stakeholders. Nathanson and her team will investigate how national experts and pressures, states’ political traditions and legislative contexts, and intermediaries influence state lawmakers’ use of research evidence. They focus on two significant public health issues. The first is the human papillomavirus (HPV), around which there is strong scientific consensus. The other is the prevention of obesity, which has a more contested research base. The team’s research will consist of two case studies of legislative staff and knowledge brokers on the state level—one in New York state and another in five states (Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington). Once the case studies are complete, the investigators will pilot test methods for identifying key informants and document retrieval in nine states; this will include the six states from the case studies plus three additional states. Finally, the researchers will select 10 key informants from each state to complete semi-structured questionnaires regarding characteristics of legislative political cultures and activities.

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