Legislators who prioritize fighting cancer more likely to base decisions on research

Policy; Public Health; Research

State legislators who prioritize cancer control may be more receptive to basing their decisions on research evidence than policy makers interested in other issues, finds a new study from Washington University in St. Louis.

“Extensive research suggests that state policy has a powerful impact on cancer rates,” said Ross Brownson, the Bernard Becker Professor at the Brown School and co-author of the study, “Framing Research for State Policymakers Who Place a Priority on Cancer,” released June 14 in the journal Cancer Causes & Control.

“We found that to effectively communicate with state legislators about cancer control, advocates should consider telling a compelling story that is delivered by a person respected by the policy maker,” said Brownson, director of the Brown School’s Prevention Research Center.

Brownson and his co-authors found that legislators who prioritized cancer tended to rate characteristics that make research information useful higher than those who did not prioritize cancer.

Cross-sectional data were collected from U.S. state policymakers from January through October 2012.

Participants who prioritized cancer risk factors were 80 percent more likely to rate research information as one of their top reasons for choosing an issue on which to work.

The study suggests the importance of narrative forms of communication and that research information needs to be relevant to the policymakers’ constituents in a brief, concise format.