Background: In the Netherlands, local authorities are required by law to develop local health memoranda, based on epidemiological analyses. The purpose of this study was to assess the actual use of these epidemiological reports by municipal health officials and associated factors that affect this use.Method: Based on a conceptual framework, we designed a questionnaire in which we operationalized instrumental, conceptual, and symbolic use, the interaction between researchers and local health officials, and four clusters of barriers in this interaction process. We conducted an internet survey among 155 Dutch local health officials representing 35% of all Dutch municipalities. By means of multiple regression analyses, we gained insight into the related factors for each of the three types of research utilization.Results: The results show that local health officials use epidemiological research more often in a conceptual than an instrumental or symbolic way. This can be explained by the complexity of the local policy process which is often linked to policies in other areas, and the various policy actors involved. Conceptual use was statistically associated with a presentation given by the epidemiologist during the policy process, the presence of obstructions regarding the report's accessibility, and the local official's personal belief systems and interests originating from different professional values and responsibilities. Instrumental and symbolic use increased with the involvement of local officials in the research process.Conclusions: The results of this study provide a partial solution to understanding and influencing research utilization. The quantitative approach underpins earlier qualitative findings on this topic. The outcomes suggest that RPHS epidemiologists can use different strategies to improve research utilization. 'Blurring the boundaries', and the enhancement of interfaces between epidemiologists and local health officials, like direct interactions into each other's work processes, is expected to create better possibilities for optimizing research use.

Health Research Policy and Systems
Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM)

de Goede, J., van Bon-Martens, M., Putters, K., & Oers, H. (2012). Looking for interaction: Quantitative measurement of research utilization by Dutch local health officials. Health Research Policy and Systems, 10(9), 1–12. doi:10.1186/1478-4505-10-9