Looking for interaction: Quantitative measurement of research utilization by Dutch local health officials

J. de Goede, M.J.H. van Bon-Martens, J.J.P. Mathijssen, K. Putters, J.A.M. van Oers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background
In the Netherlands, local authorities are required by law to develop local health memoranda, based on epidemiological analyses. The purpose of this study was to assess the actual use of these epidemiological reports by municipal health officials and associated factors that affect this use.

Method
Based on a conceptual framework, we designed a questionnaire in which we operationalized instrumental, conceptual, and symbolic use, the interaction between researchers and local health officials, and four clusters of barriers in this interaction process. We conducted an internet survey among 155 Dutch local health officials representing 35% of all Dutch municipalities. By means of multiple regression analyses, we gained insight into the related factors for each of the three types of research utilization.

Results
The results show that local health officials use epidemiological research more often in a conceptual than an instrumental or symbolic way. This can be explained by the complexity of the local policy process which is often linked to policies in other areas, and the various policy actors involved. Conceptual use was statistically associated with a presentation given by the epidemiologist during the policy process, the presence of obstructions regarding the report's accessibility, and the local official's personal belief systems and interests originating from different professional values and responsibilities. Instrumental and symbolic use increased with the involvement of local officials in the research process.

Conclusions
The results of this study provide a partial solution to understanding and influencing research utilization. The quantitative approach underpins earlier qualitative findings on this topic. The outcomes suggest that RPHS epidemiologists can use different strategies to improve research utilization. 'Blurring the boundaries', and the enhancement of interfaces between epidemiologists and local health officials, like direct interactions into each other's work processes, is expected to create better possibilities for optimizing research use.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Volume10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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