JOURNAL ARTICLE

Experiences and attitudes towards evidence-informed policy-making among research and policy stakeholders in the Canadian agri-food public health sector

I Young, K Gropp, K Pintar, L Waddell, B Marshall, K Thomas, S A McEwen, A Rajić
Zoonoses and Public Health 2014, 61 (8): 581-9
24528517
Policy-makers working at the interface of agri-food and public health often deal with complex and cross-cutting issues that have broad health impacts and socio-economic implications. They have a responsibility to ensure that policy-making based on these issues is accountable and informed by the best available scientific evidence. We conducted a qualitative descriptive study of agri-food public health policy-makers and research and policy analysts in Ontario, Canada, to understand their perspectives on how the policy-making process is currently informed by scientific evidence and how to facilitate this process. Five focus groups of 3-7 participants and five-one-to-one interviews were held in 2012 with participants from federal and provincial government departments and industry organizations in the agri-food public health sector. We conducted a thematic analysis of the focus group and interview transcripts to identify overarching themes. Participants indicated that the following six key principles are necessary to enable and demonstrate evidence-informed policy-making (EIPM) in this sector: (i) establish and clarify the policy objectives and context; (ii) support policy-making with credible scientific evidence from different sources; (iii) integrate scientific evidence with other diverse policy inputs (e.g. economics, local applicability and stakeholder interests); (iv) ensure that scientific evidence is communicated by research and policy stakeholders in relevant and user-friendly formats; (V) create and foster interdisciplinary relationships and networks across research and policy communities; and (VI) enhance organizational capacity and individual skills for EIPM. Ongoing and planned efforts in these areas, a supportive culture, and additional education and training in both research and policy realms are important to facilitate evidence-informed policy-making in this sector. Future research should explore these findings further in other countries and contexts.

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