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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011 Feb 16;103(4):306-16. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djq529. Epub 2011 Jan 6.

Communicating evidence-based information on cancer prevention to state-level policy makers.

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Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine, Washington University, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.



Opportunities exist to disseminate evidence-based cancer control strategies to state-level policy makers in both the legislative and executive branches. We explored factors that influence the likelihood that state-level policy makers will find a policy brief understandable, credible, and useful.


A systematic approach was used to develop four types of policy briefs on the topic of mammography screening to reduce breast cancer mortality: data-focused brief with state-level data, data-focused brief with local-level data, story-focused brief with state-level data, and story-focused brief with local-level data. Participants were recruited from three groups of state-level policy makers-legislative staff, legislators, and executive branch administrators- in six states that were randomly chosen after stratifying all 50 states by population size and dominant political party in state legislature. Participants from each of the three policy groups were randomly assigned to receive one of the four types of policy briefs and completed a questionnaire that included a series of Likert scale items. Primary outcomes-whether the brief was understandable, credible, likely to be used, and likely to be shared-were measured by a 5-point Likert scale according to the degree of agreement (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree). Data were analyzed with analysis of variance and with classification trees. All statistical tests were two-sided.


Data on response to the policy briefs (n = 291) were collected from February through December 2009 (overall response rate = 35%). All three policy groups found the briefs to be understandable and credible, with mean ratings that ranged from 4.3 to 4.5. The likelihood of using the brief (the dependent variable) differed statistically significantly by study condition for staffers (P = .041) and for legislators (P = .018). Staffers found the story-focused brief containing state-level data most useful, whereas legislators found the data-focused brief containing state-level data most useful. Exploratory classification trees showed distinctive patterns for brief usefulness across the three policy groups.


Our results suggest that taking a "one-size-fits-all" approach when delivering information to policy makers may be less effective than communicating information based on the type of policy maker.

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