Working in the legislature: perspectives on injury prevention in the United States
- 1Department of Health Policy and Management, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
- 2Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and State Legislator, Maryland General Assembly, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
- Dr K M Pollack, Department of Health Policy and Management, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 N. Broadway, Room 557, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA;
- Accepted 12 February 2009
National, state, and local policies to prevent and control injury can benefit from the knowledge and expertise that researchers can bring to policymaking; however, researches are often absent from this process. The lack of interaction between researchers and legislators results in a chasm between two parties with a common interest in reducing injuries, and a potentially missed opportunity for injury prevention and control. The purpose of this paper is to describe two state-level injury-related bills that were considered during the 2008 Maryland General Assembly. Our goal is to illustrate one approach to translating and disseminating research findings to legislators. We describe how researchers contributed to the deliberative processes surrounding these two injury-related legislative proposals. We also discuss the critical role of researchers in the policymaking process, and conclude with recommendations for how researchers can be more involved with legislative initiatives to prevent and control injury.
Although legislators formulate policy interventions by passing laws, including those that address injury, their efforts are not always informed by the best available research. Legislators generally do not have access to research or the training needed to critically appraise and synthesise research findings accurately.1 In order to develop evidence-based policies, some legislators rely on researchers to synthesise and translate scientific literature into succinct points that can be shared with advocates and used to inform policy debates. Researchers can be an important information source in the legislative process. They have knowledge relevant to agenda setting; they can be advocates for empirically-based policies;2 and they can provide a level of depth that complements the broad knowledge base generally required of legislators.
Despite the potential benefits that can result from researchers interacting with legislators, direct and regular communication between researchers and legislators is uncommon. This lack of interaction has implications for public health. It results in …