Objectives: We describe how scientific evidence about obesity has been used in Minnesota legislative materials to understand how research evidence might more effectively be translated into policymaking.
Methods: We selected 13 obesity-related bills introduced from 2007 to 2011 in Minnesota. Using state archives, we collected all legislative committee meeting materials and floor testimony related to each bill. We used a coding instrument to systematically analyze the content of a sample of 109 materials for their use of research evidence and non-research-based information.
Results: Research evidence was mentioned in 41% of all legislative materials. Evidence was often used to describe the prevalence or consequences of obesity or policy impacts but not to describe health disparities. In 45% of materials that cited evidence, no source of evidence was indicated. By contrast, 92% of materials presented non-research-based information, such as expert beliefs, constituent opinion, political principles, and anecdotes.
Conclusions: Despite an abundance of available research evidence on obesity, less than half of legislative materials cited any such evidence in discussions around obesity-related bills under consideration in Minnesota.