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Leveraging Public Health Research to Inform State Legislative Policy that Promotes Health for Children and Families


Purpose Engagement in policy is an essential public health service, with state legislatures serving as important arenas for activity on issues affecting children and families. However, a gap in communication often exists between policymakers and public health researchers who have the research knowledge to inform policy issues. We describe one tool for researchers to better leverage public health research to inform state legislative policymaking on issues of relevance to children and families. Description The Oregon Family Impact Seminar (OFIS), adapted from the Policy Institute for Family Impact Seminars, applies a systematic process to bring a synthesis of research findings on public health issues to state legislators using a six-step process: (1) identify candidate topics, (2) recruit legislative champions, (3) select the topic, (4) identify and prepare speakers, (5) host the presentations, and (6) develop and disseminate a research brief as a follow-up contact. Assessment Use of this model in Oregon has produced policy impact; for example, the 2015 presentation, “Two-Generation Approaches to Reduce Poverty,” prompted ongoing dialogue culminating in a new statute to increase Earned Income Tax Credit for parents with young children. This approach also has strengthened relationships among researchers and legislators, which serves to streamline the OFIS process. Conclusion This model is an effective vehicle for leveraging public health research findings to inform state-level policy. This model also serves to connect researchers with opportunities to engage with policymakers to address significant public health problems, particularly those addressing social, economic, and environmental determinants of health for children and families.

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This work was funded by the internal operating budget of the Oregon State University Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families. We gratefully acknowledge all stakeholders in and past participants of the Oregon Family Impact Seminar series.

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Correspondence to Emily J. Tomayko.

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Tomayko, E.J., Godlewski, B., Bowman, S. et al. Leveraging Public Health Research to Inform State Legislative Policy that Promotes Health for Children and Families. Matern Child Health J 23, 733–738 (2019).

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