Municipal officials' perspectives on policymaking for addressing obesity and health equity

Renee G. Parks, Fanice Thomas, Alexandra B. Morshed, Elizabeth A. Dodson, Ruiyi Tian, Mary C. Politi, Amy A. Eyler, Ian Thomas, Ross C. Brownson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Obesity evidence-based policies (EBPs) can make a lasting, positive impact on community health; however, policy development and enactment is complex and dependent on multiple forces. Aims and objectives: This study investigated key factors affecting municipal officials' policymaking for obesity and related health disparities. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 local officials from a selection of municipalities with high obesity or related health disparities across the United States between December 2020 and April 2021. Findings: Policymakers follow a general decision-making process with limited distinction between health and other policy areas. Factors affecting policymaking included: being informed about other local, state, and federal policy, conducting their own research using trustworthy sources, and seeking constituent and stakeholder perspectives. Key facilitators included the need for timely, relevant local data, and seeing or hearing from those impacted. Key local policymaking barriers included constituent opposition, misinformation, controversial issues with contentious solutions, and limited understanding of the connection between issues and obesity/health. Policymakers had a range of understanding about causes of health disparities, including views of individual choices, environmental influences on behaviours, and structural factors impacting health. To address health disparities, municipal officials described: a variety of roles policymakers can take; limitations based on the scope of government; challenges with intergovernmental collaboration or across government levels; ability of policymakers and government employees to understand the problem; and the challenge of framing health disparities given the social-political context. Discussion and conclusion: Understanding factors affecting the uptake of EBPs can inform local-level interventions that encourage EBP adoption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)444-464
Number of pages21
JournalEvidence and Policy
Volume19
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2023

Keywords

  • evidence-based policymaking
  • health equity
  • local policy
  • obesity policy

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