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Policymakers can benefit from support by researchers

The international project REPOPA found usable ways to support policymakers in their use of research evidence in developing policies. The results from the project were presented at the Final Symposium of the project in Brussels on Thursday September 8th, 2016.

Researchers provide recommendations to policymakers to take health issues such as physical activity seriously and integrate it in everyday lives of people. This is more easily said than done. Policymakers juggle with numerous pressures, points of view and resources. Research evidence is not the primary driver of their work, that is often led by peer reviews and publications. In the international project REPOPA partners from Europe and Canada have worked together to combine researchers and policymakers in the work with evidence based decisions.

REPOPA

REPOPA stands for Research into Policy to enhance Physical Activity; it is a five year project, ending in September 2016. The project is funded by European Union, 7th Framework Program. Researchers from six EU countries of Denmark, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, UK, plus Canada are project partners.

Project coordinator, professor Aja R. Aro from the University of Southern Denmark, says,

“When we as a society develop new knowledge and ideas, we cannot work in silos. Knowledge from researchers must be put into action so that policymakers can use evidence based research results when they are making decisions that affect the public. Our work from REPOPA shows, that this is possible,” says Aja R. Aro.

The first year results in the REPOPA project confirmed that research evidence was seldom used in policymaking; it was other kinds of information and priorities, which were more central. Further, several barriers were found for using research; for example, research was not available or applicable when needed academic language was difficult, and there were no procedures to gather research knowledge or meet researchers. This was found by studying 21 existing policies in six European countries and by interviewing 86 stakeholders involved in making those policies.

The REPOPA project further developed the findings into usable tools such as indicators for evidence-informed policymaking. These indicators can be used as a checklist in policymaking to assess how well the policy in question is actually evidence-informed.

REPOPA used physical activity as the theme in its work; however, the lessons learned and tools developed can be applied to other fields, especially in the area of healthy living. The project differs from many research projects also in its usable end-products. Indicators for evidence-informed policymaking are one product. The project also built a web-based umbrella platform with country platforms for evidence-informed policymaking in physical activity. These platforms bring together different actors and sectors in the countries to network and collaborate in combining research evidence and real-life policymaking.  Finally, REPOPA had an in-built evaluation mechanism to monitor and guide the project work

The REPOPA results and action points rising from them were discussed in the Symposium, where over 20 invited experts representing ministries, institutes and different organizations in Europe took part, together with the same number of REPOPA researchers.

More about the REPOPA project on: www.repopa.eu

Questions? Ask REPOPA Coordinator Contact: Arja R Aro; araro@health.sdu.dk, / +45 6011 1874.

REPOPA partners:

  • University of Southern Denmark (Coordinator), Denmark
  • Tilburg University/Tranzo, the Netherlands
  • National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland
  • National Research Council, Italy
  • Research Center for Prevention and Health, Denmark
  • Babeș-Bolyai University, Romania
  • University of Ottawa, Canada
  • Netherlands Institute for Health Promotion, the Netherlands (2011-2012)
  • Herefordshire Primary Care Trust (2011-2013), UK
  • Dutch Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the Netherlands (2012-2015)

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