The Legal Epidemiology Competency Model Version 1.0

Competencies are the knowledge and skills that workers need to perform their work well—a set of statements that workers and employers can use to define their accomplishments and work goals.1 A competency model is a list of competencies, organized into groupings or domains, which describes the range of skills needed for satisfactory to exceptional employee performance. Some governmental agencies refer to these as “core competencies.”

The goal of the Legal Epidemiology Competency Model (LECM), presented in Figure 1 (below), is to offer guidelines for minimum competencies in legal epidemiology,2 including research and translation knowledge and skills required of public health practitioners, lawyers, and policy experts working in state, tribal, local, or territorial health departments.

The LECM is neither comprehensive nor prescriptive; in most cases, competencies used from this model to create job-related standards will depend on the practitioner’s area of study. Rather, the aim of this project is to present a user-friendly model of specific skills and knowledge necessary to effectively develop, implement, or oversee legal epidemiology studies.

Developed by the Public Health Law Program (PHLP) in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the LECM has the promise to 1) provide a common language to describe the critical skills and knowledge of practitioners engaged in the scientific study of law as a factor in the cause, distribution, and prevention of disease and injury; 2) drive the development of legal epidemiology-focused curricula, scholarly support, and additions to the literature; and 3) guide the development of products related to public health law research and training under federal capacity building cooperative agreements, and similar funding opportunities.

Many experts and organizations have supported the development of the LECM. A multidisciplinary Expert Review Workgroup[PDF – 53KB] assisted the CDC team with the elements included in this final draft, providing suggestions and comments. The Public Health Foundation (PHF) guided the model’s validation and provided feedback on the framework of the draft model, project methodologies, and competency development process. PHF also developed targeted communications materials from this work. In May 2017, PHF hosted a virtual town hall meeting focused on the draft LECM that was attended by more than 130 people. During and after this meeting, participants could provide input on the draft LECM. That feedback is reflected in this version of the LECM.

Ideally, the LECM will be the standard used by practitioners to ensure that legal epidemiology deliverables, including trainings, are competency-based. For instance, under an umbrella cooperative agreement managed by CDC’s National Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Public Health Infrastructure and Workforce (Public Health Infrastructure Center), ChangeLab Solutions has developed a series of competency-based legal epidemiology trainings using the previous version of the LECM as a guide. These free, on-demand trainings are available on the Public Health Law Academy website.

Other anticipated uses of the LECM include

  • Updating and revising job descriptions by employers
  • Career planning and self-assessment by employees
  • Career guidance and exploration for students
  • Developing Competency-based training and learning outcome objectives
  • Developing, evaluating, and planning curricula

The LECM is meant to reflect the practice of legal epidemiology. As such, PHLP and the Expert Review Workgroup understood that certain assumptions must be made about competency development in a transdisciplinary, cross-cutting, emerging field:

  • Legal epidemiology recognizes that generating, analyzing, and communicating information about law through quantitative and qualitative analysis is essential to the promotion of population health.
  • Legal epidemiology practitioners, including non-attorneys, should possess basic competencies in public health law,3 including understanding the process for creating and implementing law and policy, as well as basic principles of administrative and constitutional law. An understanding of these basic principles is essential to demonstrating competency in legal epidemiology.
  • These competencies do not limit the practice of legal epidemiology; they are meant to reflect basic competencies at three tiers of practice within each domain, but not all of the necessary skills for every job would be represented in the model, and every person working in the field would not necessarily need all of the competencies listed. As such, the model was created to provide a broad set of skills and should be tailored for individual job descriptions and uses.

The LECM is organized into three major domains: 1) general legal epidemiology competencies, 2) legal mapping, and 3) legal evaluation. Domain 1 focuses on cross-cutting knowledge and includes statements related to basic research and epidemiology skills needed to conduct and translate both types of legal epidemiology studies. Domain 2 addresses those competencies needed for conducting legal mapping studies, including those related to identifying the need for and designing policy surveillance projects. Domain 3 focuses on legal evaluation and includes statements related to designing projects that study potential associations between health and law.

The organization of the LECM into three tiers (entry level, mid-tier, and senior manager/principal investigator) reflects three stages of legal epidemiology career development and closely mirrors the three stages of public health career development, as defined by PHF’s Council on Linkages. This framework, depicted in Figure 2 (below), allows the competencies to build upon one another, supports those who are involved in legal epidemiology studies at progressive stages of their careers, and provides guidance on identifying appropriate competencies for the relevant career stage. Key behaviors are also offered to reflect each competency statement across each tier. Key behaviors are those associated with each competency that the most competent public health practitioners will engage in while performing their jobs.

This document was developed by Montrece McNeill Ransom, JD, MPH, team lead for public health law training and workforce development, PHLP, CSTLTS, CDC; Tara Ramanathan, JD, MPH, team lead for research and translation, PHLP, CSTLTS, CDC; Brianne Yassine, MPH, public health analyst/health education consultant, PHLP, Public Health Infrastructure Center, CDC. Mariam Ahmed, legal intern, PHLP, CSTLTS, CDC; and Rose Meltzer, MPH student, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University and administrative and communication intern, PHLP, CSTLTS, CDC.

For further assistance with the LECM, please contact PHLP at PHLP provides technical assistance and public health law resources to advance the use of law as a public health tool. PHLP cannot provide legal advice on any issue and cannot represent any individual or entity in any matter. PHLP recommends seeking the advice of an attorney or other qualified professional with questions regarding the application of law to a specific circumstance. The findings and conclusions in this summary are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.

Published March 2018.

  1. Competency Models—Communicating Industry’s Education and Training Needs: Competency Model Development and Use: A Technical Assistance Guide[PDF – 748KB], Competency Model Clearing House (2015).
  2. Legal epidemiology is the scientific study of law as a factor in the cause, distribution, and prevention of disease and injury. See Scott Burris, Marice Ashe, Donna Levin, Matthew Penn, & Michelle Larkin, A Transdisciplinary Approach to Public Health Law: The Emerging Practice of Legal Epidemiology, 37 Ann. Rev. Pub. Health 135 (2016).
  3. The Public Health Law Competency Model describing these competencies can be found on CDC’s Public Health Law website[PDF – 1.37MB].
  4. See Evan D. Anderson et al., Public Health Law Research: Theory and Methods (Alexander C. Wagenaar & Scott C. Burris eds., Jossey-Bass 2013).
  5. See id.
  6. See Burris, supra note 2..
  7. See id.
  8. See Anderson, supra note 4.
  9. See Burris, supra note 2.
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