How to Communicate with Legislators about Obesity Prevention Policy
This study examines the preferred source, presentation, and dissemination of health-related information for state legislators, using the 2013 Texas Health Perception Survey.
State legislators with committee appointments related to public health policy and the Farm to Table Caucus were targeted for in-person qualitative interviews, to evaluate knowledge and attitudes about obesity prevention and control policies. Public health graduate students were trained to facilitate the sixteen interviews.
Survey results suggested the most effective witnesses for committee hearings were individuals personally affected by the stated topic (89%), and that testimony should be factual, concise, and presented in writing to the sponsored legislative office in advance. Texas Universities were perceived as the most credible institutions for research, while state/local agencies were perceived as the most dependable resources for information about the issue. Legislators prefer data at the local level.
On legislation specific to childhood obesity, legislators preferred the term ‘childhood obesity’ because it defined the problem. Physicians and university researchers were considered the most informed on childhood obesity (86%). Research findings on childhood obesity were preferred in electronic (92%) and/or paper (50%) format, with information that was easily-digestible (50%). Preferred mechanisms for delivery of information were email (77%) and in-person (23%). Communication with the legislator pre-session (23%) and/or after delivery of information (46%) was also encouraged.
The 2013 Texas Health Perception Survey found that better communication strategies, as well as recruitment of credible witnesses and messengers, would be helpful in disseminating research findings and health information to state legislators.
Learning Areas:Advocacy for health and health education
Communication and informatics
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Formulate messaging to communicate effectively with legislators on childhood obesity. Identify characteristics of credible witnesses and messengers on childhood obesity.
Keyword(s): Public Health Policy, Obesity
Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student in health promotion and behavioral sciences, studying and working on childhood obesity prevention programs and policies.
Any relevant financial relationships? No
I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.