Our new Policy Advisory Group – responding to the evidence needs of policymakers

14 April 2015 | Policy

Dr Kate AllenDr Kate Allen is Executive Director, Science & Public Affairs, at World Cancer Research Fund International.

When I talk about World Cancer Research Fund International with scientists in the area of nutrition they often mention the “green bible” – short hand for our 2007 report Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer. That report has evolved into our Continuous Update Project, an ongoing global analysis of research on cancer prevention and survival and a way to ensure that our work is always underpinned by the most current and authoritative science.

But what of policy? The green bible had a companion report that came out in 2009 – Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention, which set out recommendations for how policymakers can create supportive environments which will encourage people to adopt World Cancer Research Fund International's Cancer Prevention Recommendations.The bottom line of the report was that, based on the evidence, integrated, multi-sectoral action is needed globally to achieve healthier diets and sustained physical activity.

That 2009 report was a catalyst for us to develop our policy and public affairs work. Our overarching aim is to support the development and implementation of effective policies worldwide that will help people reduce their risk of cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). We focus on evidence-informed policies to help governments and policymakers around the world take effective action to reduce preventable cases of cancer and other NCDs.

We’ve developed the NOURISHING framework to encourage national and international policymakers to take comprehensive action on promoting healthier diets and reducing obesity. The framework brings together ten areas where governments need to take action. Governments can use NOURISHING to learn from the experiences of other countries and build effective policy actions by tailoring the examples to their own national contexts.

All our policy work is underpinned by our science - and just as our science is updated through an ongoing process of analysis, we want to ensure that our policy recommendations are always based on the most current evidence. So we’re developing a process for updating policy evidence on an ongoing basis, conceptually similar to our Continuous Update Project for science. To help us think through how best to achieve this, we’ve convened a Policy Advisory Group, which brings together the policy and research communities, as well as civil society to provide input on:

  • the evidence needs of the policymaking community
  • how best we could meet these needs through a process of updating, interpreting and communicating the evidence for policy
  • what policy outputs we could produce to enhance our impact
  • how best to reach all relevant stakeholders
  • how to overcome barriers to policy implementation

Despite the new global policy architecture for NCDs, considerable barriers to the wider adoption of more effective policies on the prevention of cancer and other NCDs still exist. The role of evidence is critical to the process of convincing politicians that a particular action is warranted and should be implemented.

But even when the evidence for action is clear there can be an unwillingness to take policy action and thinking can get siloed too, with stakeholders inhabiting their own domains but not engaging across them. Our hope is that by bringing together stakeholders from government, civil society and academia we will develop a truly inclusive process for updating policy evidence. One that is innovative, agile and above all responds to the needs of the policymaking community, advancing the use of more effective policies to reduce the risk of cancer and others NCDs worldwide.

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Dr Kate Allen | 14 April 2015

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