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Psychiatr Serv. 2016 Dec 1;67(12):1355-1361. Epub 2016 Jul 1.

Uses of Research Evidence by State Legislators Who Prioritize Behavioral Health Issues.

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Dr. Purtle is with the Department of Health Management and Policy, Drexel University, Philadelphia (e-mail: ). Dr. Dodson is with the Institute for Public Health, and Dr. Brownson is with the Division of Public Health Sciences and Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University in St. Louis.



Disseminating behavioral health (BH) research to elected policy makers is a priority, but little is known about how they use and seek research evidence. This exploratory study aimed to identify research dissemination preferences and research-seeking practices of legislators who prioritize BH issues and to describe the role of research in determining policy priorities. The study also assessed whether these legislators differ from those who do not prioritize BH issues.


A telephone-based survey was conducted with 862 state legislators (response rate, 46%). A validated survey instrument assessed priorities and the factors that determined them, research dissemination preferences, and research-seeking practices. Bivariate analyses were used to characterize and compare the two groups.


Legislators who prioritized BH issues (N=125) were significantly more likely than those who did not to identify research evidence as a factor that determined policy priorities (odds ratio=1.91, 95% confidence interval=1.25-2.90, p=.002). Those who prioritized BH issues also attributed more importance to ten of 12 features of research, and the difference was significant for four features (unbiased, p=.014; presented in a concise way, p=.044; delivered by someone known or respected, p=.033; and tells a story, p=.030). Those who prioritized BH issues also engaged more often in eight of 11 research-seeking and utilization practices, and a significance difference was found for one (attending research presentations, p=.012).


Legislators who prioritized BH issues actively sought, had distinct preferences for, and were particularly influenced by research evidence. Testing legislator-focused BH research dissemination strategies is an area for future research.

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