The L.E.A.D. Framework and New Opportunities for Research
Imagine that you are a researcher who has become aware of the value of conducting research with an impact on public health. You have seen a call for proposals for policy-oriented research related to obesity or have recognized the need to expand your current obesity research to incorporate more of a multilevel perspective. Your research might focus on obesity or some other health issue or be in another field, such as city planning, education, or law. What are innovative ways to think about relevant research questions that would be fundable and publishable? Are there ways to research complex, big-picture questions that need answering? How far can research that might be relevant to those questions deviate from the status quo with respect to methods considered to be the gold standard in your field? How can you ensure that your research is responsibly designed to assess a policy adequately? One purpose of the L.E.A.D. framework is to stimulate new ways of thinking about research that can yield answers to such questions.
community interventions that influence food, eating, and physical activity. Inherent in this charge was a recognition that, while treatment and prevention focused on the individual remain relevant, there is a growing need for obesity prevention strategies that focus on whole populations—multicomponent, multilevel strategies that can favorably impact communities or other complex systems.
In developing the L.E.A.D. framework (for Locate Evidence, Evaluate Evidence, Assemble Evidence, Inform Decisions), the committee was instructed to provide an overview of the current nature of the evidence base; identify the challenges faced in integrating scientific evidence into the broader array of factors that influence community interventions and policy change; provide practical, action-oriented recommendations for using this framework to choose, implement, and evaluate obesity efforts; identify new research and evaluation tools and methods, and existing ones that can be deployed more effectively; and develop a plan for communicating, disseminating, evaluating, and refining the framework. The committee’s charge emphasized the need for a framework that guides decision making on children and adults. The committee also was directed to focus on the role of a systems perspective in making obesity prevention decisions, as well as to contribute to more general efforts to address complex, multifactorial public health challenges.
In responding to its charge, the committee’s main goal was to support decision makers in choosing and implementing obesity prevention interventions or in assessing the outcomes of interventions already in place or under way. This report has two primary audiences: (1) decision makers and the intermediaries who assist them in making decisions and (2) those who conduct research relevant to obesity prevention or who