Final Symposium of the REPOPA project, Brussels 9 September 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.
REPOPA project found usable ways to support policymakers in their use of research evidence in developing policies. These results were presented at the Final Symposium of the project in Brussels on Thursday September 8th, 2016. 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. Here is the link to the participants list.
REPOPA project stands for Research into Policy to enhance Physical Activity; it is a five year project, ending in September 2016, 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.
The objective of the Final REPOPA symposium was to summarize the project findings and to discuss with external invited experts especially the issues which REPOPA studied but for which more work is needed.
The Symposium Program contained welcoming from REPOPA Coordinator, Professor Arja R Aro as well as from the EC Project Officer for REPOPA Rachida Ghalouci. After that, to create a country-context, representatives of the six European countries told their perspectives on evidence-informed policymaking in their countries. Then REPOPA work package leaders summarized the core findings, innovations and added value of their work. Here is the list with the country presentations: WP1. WP2. WP3. WP4. WP5. WP6.
The afternoon of the Symposium was reserved for group discussions in the format of world café (learning café) on four central topics needing further work in the area of evidence-informed policymaking especially in physical activity. The topics concerned facilitators and barriers, competences needed, contextual factors and implementation challenges in developing evidence-informed policies.
The Symposium results will be reported in a formal report and/or scientific article to be published for wider dissemination.
Want to read more about REPOPA findings? Below is a summary of central findings of REPOPA:
Baseline findings (WP1)
The first year results in the REPOPA project confirmed that research evidence was systematically 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.
Intervention findings (WP2, WP3)
Based on the first year findings, the project went further to develop two kinds of interventions to learn if policymakers could be helped in finding and using research evidence. Simulation policy game proved to increase mutual understanding between policymakers and different organizations involved. It also helped to see how important organizational and leadership support is for using research evidence especially in cross-sector collaboration. Stewardship-based interventions, which were tailored to local policy needs, proved to be useful for policymakers to learn to take the needs and values of the policy target groups into account. Also politicians learned to request for more research evidence. Both simulation policy game and Stewardship interventions were carried out in three countries.
Delphi study to develop indicators for evidence-informed policymaking (WP4)
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. The indicators were developed by an international two-round Delphi panel of 82 and 103 experts respectively, and further, the indicators agreed were also tested in six country contexts.
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.
REPOPA project differs from many research projects also in its usable end-products. Indicators for evidence-informed policymaking are one product. In WP6 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 in WP5.