What types of health evidence persuade actors in a complex policy system?

Article by Geoff Bates, Sarah Ayres, Andrew Barnfield, and Charles Larkin: “Good quality urban environments can help to prevent non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, mental health conditions and diabetes that account for three quarters of deaths globally (World Health Organisation, 2022). More commonly however, poor quality living conditions contribute to poor health and widening inequalities (Adlakha & John, 2022). Consequently, many public health advocates hope to convince and bring together the stakeholders who shape urban development to help create healthier places.

Evidence is one tool that can be used to convince these stakeholders from outside the health sector to think more about health outcomes. Most of the literature on the use of evidence in policy environments has focused on the public sector, such as politicians and civil servants (e.g., Crow & Jones, 2018). However, urban development decision-making processes involve many stakeholders across sectors with different needs and agendas (Black et al., 2021). While government sets policy and regulatory frameworks, private sector organisations such as property developers and investors drive urban development and strongly influence policy agendas.

In our article recently published in Policy & PoliticsWhat types of evidence persuade actors in a complex policy system?, we explore the use of evidence to influence different groups across the urban development system to think more about health outcomes in their decisions…

The key findings of the research were that:

  1. Evidence-based narratives have wide appeal. Narratives based on real-world and lived experiences help stakeholders to form an emotional connection with evidence and are effective for drawing attention to health problems. Powerful outcomes such as child health and mortality data are particularly persuasive. This builds on literature promoting the use of storytelling approaches for public sector actors by demonstrating its applicability within the private and third sectors….(More)”

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