'Information for State Health Policy Program' Gives Policy-Makers Helpful Data

From 1992 to 1996, researchers at Mathematica Policy Research evaluated Phase I of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Information for State Health Policy national program and, to inform ongoing implementation, the first two years of Phase II.

The Phase I evaluation provided an overview, including preliminary insights, hypotheses, and baseline measures to be further explored in the Phase II evaluation.

The Phase II assessment involved:

  • A case study analysis of Phase II grantees to determine whether specific improvements were made in health data systems.
  • A comparison of InfoSHP to other federal- and state-supported state data initiatives.
  • Two surveys of key state policymakers, to gather information on state data capacity in all 50 states.

Mathematica Policy Research is a Washington-based social policy research firm.

Key Findings

Overall the evaluations found:

  • Creating data useful for policymakers and motivating many different people in both the policy and data fields to contribute to this effort is challenging.
  • It is particularly difficult to move from concept and plan to implementation because delays and technical roadblocks make it hard to sustain momentum and the active involvement of policymakers.
  • It is difficult to move beyond technical data improvements to truly improve the policy value of the information produced and its use. Three factors seem to be critical in increasing the extent to which information is used for policymaking:
    • Staff with effective leadership and skills to bridge the gap between data experts and policymakers who use data.
    • Tailoring strategy to the state-specific nature of data demand.
    • Strategies that balance elements of short-term policy response with longer-term capacity building.