This study has presented results of an effort to engage scientists in organizational policy assessment and policy development for physical activity promotion in fifteen nations. The concept employed featured (a) an assessment of organizational policies by means of a survey among policy-makers from relevant organizations and (b) engaging them in a discourse on based on the results of the policy assessment in order to increase their policy outputs and outcomes by a structured workshop in each nation.
The results of the survey indicate that determinants of policy outputs and outcomes for physical activity promotion among older people vary starkly among organizations in participating nations. In all nations, however, the determinant that policy-makers were most critical about was resources. While this might suggest that redirecting resources to physical activity promotion among older people would be an important means to increase policy outputs and outcomes, attempting to tackle this sensitive issue directly may prove to be futile. Alternatively, researchers might want to focus on improvements in the other three determinants of our model, thus indirectly achieving a shift of resources within organizations. For example, policy-makers in some nations reported a lack of concrete goals for policies on the issue of aging and physical activity. According to our theoretical model, researchers in these countries might be able to assist organizations in formulating such concrete goals. Not only would this stimulate policy-making, it might also prompt the organizations in question to provide more resources to reach their newly specified goals.
Meanwhile, policy-makers in a number of nations indicated that opportunities (e.g. media interest in the topic of ageing and physical activity) have improved in recent years. Again, according to the theoretical model, these improved opportunities are an important determinant of relevant policy outcomes.
Regarding the different policy sectors, policy-makers from the sport sector showed the most favorable perceptions of goals and resources. Consequently, the development of physical activity promotion policies might advance more rapidly if this sector is systematically engaged in such efforts. Respondents from the health sector, in turn, featured the most negative perceptions of available resources, while their perceptions of obligations were strongest compared to the other sectors. In order to stimulate policy development, it might thus be advisable to foster collaborations between the health and sport sectors for physical activity promotion among older people.
The case study results of the workshops in the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany suggest that collecting expert survey data on policy determinants and presenting an analysis of such data at a workshop with policy-makers might enable researchers to engage in a discourse with relevant organizations on topics of health promotion. In all four nations, researchers observed at least some beneficial results. This included the continued collaboration with a regional ministry (Germany), the formulation of goals towards integrated policy-making (the Netherlands), the establishment of an alliance on the topic (Sweden), and the formulation of, and work on, a national action plan (United Kingdom).
However, it should be recognized that these results represent the perception of the researchers who were engaged in the project and thus might differ from the perceptions of policy-makers attending the workshop. In some nations, there is evidence that conflicts surfaced between the different policy-makers taking part in the workshops. This included, for example, discussions on current practice and its evidence-base between local and national policy-makers in the Netherlands. In Germany, organizations already functioning as interest brokers for physical activity promotion among older people were reluctant to agree on a way forward, potentially indicating competing interests in policy development. These results may be a further indication that processes in policy development for health promotion are non-linear.
Given the small number of cases compared, differing workshop results might also be explained by different value orientations of policy-makers and researchers in the four case study countries towards research utilization. Also, welfare-state orientations might play a role in shaping policy-makers' receptiveness for the issue of physical activity and ageing . In this regard, workshop accomplishments in the Netherlands and Sweden might be attributed partly to the social-democratic welfare-state regimes in these nations.
We acknowledge that this study has a number of limitations and thus yields results that are explorative in nature only. For one, the sampling process of the survey was intended to achieve structural equivalence. However, in a number of nations, such equivalence has proven to be difficult to accomplish. This is due to stark differences within the organizations/sectors involved in physical activity promotion in the different nations. This problem reflects the general difficulties of cross-national comparative social inquiries . Consequently, the analysis by sector may be rather incoherent in some cases. While the instrument for the assessment of policy rationales has already been tested successfully in a number of research projects, to infer that responses of an individual representative of an organization are representative of the organization as a whole (or, for that matter, of national public policies in general) remains a matter for debate.
Also, our results of the policy assessment may be biased due to the small sample sizes. These small sample sizes, for example, did not allow for a meaningful analysis of results by nation and policy level in numerous nations. It can, however, be assumed that in most nations policy determinants might systematically vary between organizations who are working on the local, regional, or national level.
It would also have been desirable to present a more comprehensive picture of organizational policies on the issue of aging and physical activity in the different nations. While some of this information were gathered as part of the survey, the presentation of results appeared difficult within the scope of this paper.
Some may criticize our approach of using national workshops to feed the results of our policy assessment into the process of policy development as being somewhat intuitive. Especially, since such an approach could be interpreted as being rather participatory. As a matter of fact, transforming quantitative survey data into a qualitative approach of policy development by the means of a workshop proved to be difficult for the EUNAAPA project.
In addition, the concrete effects of the presentation and discussion of policy assessment results on the results of the workshops is difficult to assess. The same applies to the actual impact of the workshops on policy development. The results reported in this article are preliminary in nature and thus only provide some very limited insights into the non-linear processes of policy development that may have taken place in the different nations. In some cases, results seemingly accomplished through the workshops may in fact have been only loosely related to these meetings. In part, these difficulties exemplify the general lack of understanding and availability of methodological tools for enhancing research utilization.
Beyond these methodological limitations, our attempt to increase the receptiveness of organizations for research utilization by focusing on means to alter the organizational context might be considered problematic, as it raises general questions about the science being value-free (Wertfreiheit) . On the other hand, there have been calls for research to explicitly play an active role in shaping social action . From this point of view, our approach seems to expand existing explanatory models of research utilization, offering the potential for enhanced scientific engagement in policy development. Based on our experience in this project, we would encourage the development of comprehensive theories and methods to initiate and evaluate scientific enterprises for the development of health promotion policies.