Webinar series builds policy research skills

Session 2 of a four-part webinar series designed to disseminate approaches for evaluating obesity policies was held on April 3. It addressed the pitfalls associated with research in real world settings.

The series was developed to disseminate techniques and approaches for evaluating policies intended to reduce obesity prevalence by improving diet and/or increasing physical activity. Rigorous evaluation of these “natural experiments” may be an effective means for the research community to inform policy on the issues of obesity, diet, and activity.

The webinar series is co-sponsored by the National Collaboration on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR), a collaboration of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). It is taught by Dr. Kathryn Newcomer, co-director of the Midge Center for Evaluation Effectiveness and Professor of Public Policy and Public Administration at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Issues covered in Session 2 included: redundancy and contingency plans before going into the field; addressing data quality assurance in real time; addressing limitation to assessment of validity and reliability; addressing problems of measurement influencing behavior (e.g., response set on surveys, Hawthorne effect and Pygmalion effects on performance, etc.); and how to assess the robustness of measures.

The first session of the webinar series (Feb. 27) successfully explored how to evaluate policy interventions. It was attended live by more than 300 people, although several “single” participants signed on were actually rooms of 10 to 12 participants. People from all over the world, from academia to national and local public health agencies, and other professions participated in Session 1. The heightened interest has encouraged talk for a related journal supplement on the issue. Stay tuned for details.

The 600+ others who registered for the session, as well as those interested in the future can watch the recorded sessions at their leisure. The video and downloadable PDF slides are available at Details regarding the rest of the webinar series are listed below.

Webinar 3: Enhancing the Usefulness of Evidence to Inform Practice May 1, 2009, 1-2 p.m. EDT

Webinar 4: Communicating Results Effectively June 12, 2009, 1-2 p.m. EDT

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