political considerations, views of trusted advisors and constituents, their own experiences, economic analyses, and numerous other inputs. A related point is the need to collect consistent health and economic data from those obesity programs that are in place to permit clearer conclusions about what is working and the cost implications.
The way the evidence is presented is critical. Policy makers are barraged with information. The organizations represented on the panel continually seek the most effective ways to build on the evidence to draw the attention of policy makers, the media, other opinion leaders, and the public. These methods include mapping and other visuals, easy-to-grasp metrics, brief summaries of relevant research, and personal stories and testimonials.
Research, action, and policy can be linked to increase impact. The presenters shared examples in which communities, instead of just serving as the subject of a research study, participated in collecting, analyzing, and disseminating the evidence. The community thus becomes more engaged in the research, and the result is often tangible changes in policies or programs.
The panel consisted of representatives from three policy and advocacy organizations and a community organizer. Jeffrey Levi, Executive Director, Trust for America’s Health, Washington, DC, identified five challenges to communicating with federal policy makers about obesity prevention. Allison Karpyn, Director of Research and Evaluation, The Food Trust, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, focused on the policy-making process and what it means for advocacy organizations that present evidence to policy makers. According to Rebecca Flournoy, Associate Director, PolicyLink, Oakland, California, convincing policy makers about the role of community environments in childhood obesity means communicating research findings in compelling ways; indeed, if the issue is compelling enough, policies may be enacted even absent the most definitive evidence, as occurred with tobacco use. Derek Birnie, Executive Director, Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, Seattle, Washington, described how, as a community organizer, he serves as a bridge to grassroots groups, researchers, and policy makers in his work with the King County Food and Fitness Initiative.
Dr. Levi explained that the Trust for America’s Health focuses on reaching federal policy makers on a range of public health issues, includ-