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Method-specific barriers and facilitators: A novel evaluation of contraceptive use in Malawi

Sarah Huber, The Ohio State University

Project abstract

Increasingly, public health emphasizes the importance of evidence-based policy-making. But scholars of political science assert that evidence is only one of many important drivers of policy. The Kingdon Policy Window model suggests that three streams -- problem definitions, policy solutions, and political considerations -- must all come together to open an opportunity for policy making; evidence can shape any, all, or none of these three streams. This raises questions about how policymakers assess and use evidence on reproductive health issues.

This qualitative study explores the role that scientific evidence plays in shaping legislators' decisions about state-level policy on specific reproductive health issues. Through semi-structured interviews, this research will investigate how state legislators and their aides weigh and use evidence when making policy decisions on two contested reproductive health issues in the U.S.: abortion, and the use of alcohol during pregnancy. These two issues share many important features such as controversy, competing demands of the woman and fetus, and ; but the bodies of evidence on the two topics are very different with divergent implications about safety, health, and the role of regulation. Public health practitioners and researchers would be well served by a deeper understanding of how policymakers assess and weigh evidence on these heated policy issues, in order to better translate and apply key research to enable it to influence important policy outcomes.

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