Kids eating lunch

On December 29, 2022, Congress passed a significant measure to permanently expand the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (Summer EBT) program nationwide. This program provides essential grocery benefits during the summer months to children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. This pivotal legislation highlights the profound impact of health services research on shaping policies that address child hunger and nutritional disparities. Rooted in a comprehensive body of scientific evidence, this decision demonstrates the effectiveness of the Summer EBT program in alleviating food insecurity. Furthermore, the legislative developments in Louisiana provide key insights into the complexities of policymaking. These developments illustrate how research can significantly influence policy formulation and drive meaningful changes in public health, as well as the challenges of applying evidence-based policies within a federalist system, where state-specific dynamics can complicate the uniform implementation of national programs.

Louisiana's Legislative Response to Summer EBT

The legislative narrative in Louisiana provides a compelling case study of the challenges and opportunities in leveraging health research to inform policy aimed at mitigating health disparities. The state's initial decision to opt out of the Summer EBT program, despite its proven benefits, sparked a significant debate on the role of policy in addressing the nutritional needs of vulnerable populations. This decision, driven by concerns over budget constraints and administrative capabilities, highlighted a gap between research evidence and policy action, underscoring the need for more targeted advocacy and research dissemination efforts to bridge this divide.

Representative Jason Hughes' (D) introduction of House Bill 18 in response to the state's opt-out represents a proactive legislative effort to ensure the implementation of evidence-based interventions to combat food insecurity. The bill not only sought to mandate state participation in the Summer EBT program but also highlighted the broader implications of food insecurity on health, psychological well-being, and societal violence, drawing directly on scientific research to justify the need for legislative action.

Lessons for Health Services Researchers

The legislative developments in Louisiana offer several key lessons for health services researchers:

  1. The Importance of Evidence-Based Advocacy: The case of Louisiana emphasizes the need for researchers to engage in evidence-based advocacy at all levels of government, translating their findings into actionable insights for policymakers. By effectively communicating the impact of interventions like the Summer EBT program on public health outcomes, researchers can play a pivotal role in shaping policy decisions.
  2. Bridging the Research-Policy Gap: Health services researchers are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between research evidence and policy action. By actively participating in the policy discourse, researchers can ensure that health disparities and the needs of underserved populations are adequately addressed in legislative agendas.
  3. The Role of Research in Legislative Debates: The introduction of House Bill 18 and the subsequent legislative debate underscore the value of research in informing legislative discussions on public health issues. Researchers should strive to make their work accessible and relevant to policymakers, highlighting the real-world implications of their findings.
  4. Advocating for Comprehensive Policy Solutions: The legislative response to the Summer EBT program in Louisiana illustrates the complexity of policy decisions affecting public health. Researchers should advocate for comprehensive policy solutions that address the root causes of health disparities, leveraging their expertise to guide the development of multifaceted interventions.


The legislative context surrounding the Summer EBT program in Louisiana offers critical insights for health services researchers into the complex interplay between research, policy, and public health outcomes. While it is not explicitly documented that advocacy directly led to the introduction of specific bills such as House Bill 18, the general consensus in the field supports the idea that sustained, evidence-based advocacy contributes significantly to raising awareness among policymakers about public health issues. By engaging in this form of advocacy, bridging the research-policy gap, and advocating for comprehensive solutions, health services researchers can significantly contribute to the development of policies that address nutritional disparities and improve the well-being of vulnerable populations. The case of Louisiana, therefore, serves as a potent reminder of the transformative potential of health services research in shaping public policy and underscores the importance of researchers' continued engagement in the policymaking process.

If you want to learn how to bridge the gap between research and communicating with policymakers, AcademyHealth offers a Communicating for Impact course. Sign up for updates on future offerings here.


Isa Granados, M.S.

Ph.D. Candidate - Duke University School of Medicine

Isa Granados, AcademyHealth’s Spring 2024 Health Policy Fellow, is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Population ... Read Bio

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