Diffusion Studies

About Policy Diffusion

Picture4a.use In its broadest sense, policy diffusion is how governments (or other decision-making bodies) learn from each other to adopt policies that are best suited for their jurisdictions.

It is a process whereby one government’s decisions are informed by choices made by other governments.
In this way, governments can adopt novel policy solutions to public health issues based on the evidence and experience of other jurisdictions, which may help to save on time and other resources.

Diffusion of innovations theory is the basis for policy diffusion. The theory, defined by Everett Rogers, outlines five adopter categories: (1) innovators, (2) early adopters, (3) early majority, (4) late majority and (5) laggards.

rogers curve
Figure 1. Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations Theory Adopter Categories and Expected Percentages (Figure 1 produced based on information provided from Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations (New York: Free Press, 2001).

Innovativeness can be understood as ‘tolerance for risk’.  Level of innovativeness corresponds to different adopter categories, based on how relatively early or later an organization adopts the innovation of interest (e.g., new policy).

On one end of the curve, there are innovators who are the first to adopt due to their ability to tolerate higher levels of risk and make decision using less evidence.  On the other end of the curve are laggards who tolerate lower less of risk and often need more evidence and support before adopting an innovation. Learn More >>


children-playingKnowledge of policy diffusion allows practitioners, policy makers, and researchers to better understand how policies spread from place to place, and why some areas adopt new policies more readily than others.

Findings from policy diffusion research may be used to recommend improvements to existing policy and to promote the development of future healthy public policies related to chronic disease prevention.

The POWER UP! team is working on understanding the spread of healthy public policies across jurisdictions in Canada. Our study is the first of its’ kind to review the diffusion of School Daily Physical Activity Policies.

An understanding of the conditions associated with successful policy adoption and diffusion can help identify opportunities to pioneer novel initiatives to increase physical activity in children.

View our Research on School Daily Physical Activity Policies Here