Elevating the impact of nutrition and obesity policy research and evaluation

Public policy can play a major role in impacting childhood obesity, yet little is known about the role of nutrition and obesity policy research in informing public policy decisions.

A supplement published in the April issue of Preventing Chronic Disease includes an essay and three articles examining the role of nutrition and obesity policy research and evaluation. The supplement was organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (NOPREN).

Introduced by the essay, “Elevating the impact of nutrition and obesity policy research and evaluation,” two of the four NOPREN articles in the supplement highlight how NOPREN’s Policy Research Impact Working Group (PRIWG) aims to improve understanding and build connections between researchers and policymakers. This essay also explores how to better use these connections in conducting and communicating nutrition and obesity policy research—from initial idea generation to dissemination. PRIWG is sharing evidence gathered and exploring collaborative projects with the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) Get Research Used workgroup, which aims to empower researchers to translate and actively disseminate their results and findings.

Dr. Sheila Fleischhacker, lead author of the essay and senior public health and science policy advisor in the Division of Nutrition Research Coordination, National Institutes of Health explains in the essay, “The PRIWG has developed a collaborative group and approach to move forward on its ultimate goal of identifying how best to elevate the impact of research and evaluation into policy pathways to make and improve on policies that support access to healthier food and beverage options and promote healthier food choices.”

For the article, “Getting research to the policy table: A qualitative study with public health researchers on engaging with policy makers,” PRIWG members conducted a qualitative study to explore nutrition and obesity researchers’ practices, beliefs, barriers, and facilitators to communicating and engaging with policymakers. Using semi-structured interviews with 18 researchers, major findings included:

  • A wide variation in practices for communicating and engaging policy makers
  • Some agreement on a broad range of “driving” factors (e.g., desire to make a difference, mentorship support, etc.)
  • Agreement on barriers (e.g., unsupportive professional culture, lack of training)
  • Mixed beliefs about whether researchers should be working with policymakers

Through PRIWG’s collaborative approach, the group plans to move forward by convening thought leaders, canvassing researcher and policymaker needs, collecting stories of successes and challenges, and drawing on domains that have made a substantial impact in promoting dissemination and evidence uptake.

NOPREN, supports transdisciplinary policy, research, and evaluation across a continuum of policy identification, development, evaluation, and dissemination. The Network includes other working groups and joint working groups with the CDC-supported Physical Activity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (PAPRN) and with Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2012, NOPREN’s first supplement was released in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The current supplement features articles from PRIWG and the Rural Food Access Working Group and highlights the evidence base and future efforts.

Other articles in the supplement focus on the local and rural communities and include: “Developing Local Board of Health Guidelines to Promote Healthy Food Access – King County, Washington, 2010-2012” and “Nutrition-related Policy and Environmental Strategies to Prevent Obesity in Rural Communities: A Systematic Review of the Literature, 2002-2013.”

To read the essay, visit

To read “Getting research to the policy table,” visit


Never miss a newsletter

We are social

Check us out on Facebook, LinkedIn,
Twitter and YouTube