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National Public Health Improvement Initiative (NPHII)

2011 National Public Health Improvement Initiative (NPHII)
Grantee Meeting

Atlanta, Georgia
March 30 – April 1, 2011

Public Health Law and Policy

Speakers: Donald Benken, JD, MPH, Senior Public Health Advisor, OSTLTS; Lindsay Culp, JD, MPH, Public Health Analyst, OSTLTS; and Caroline Fichtenberg, PhD, MS, Director, Center for Public Health Policy, APHA

Description:Law and policy can play a vital role in positive public health outcomes and reducing public health risks. For example, in the last 30 years, we have seen increases in childhood immunization rates and seat belt usage as well as declines in tobacco use resulting from policy and legal changes at the state and local level. As public health programs and science identify best and promising practices, law and policy makers are in position to identify strategies that can result in long-term positive public health improvements. OSTLTS grantees have unique access to several CDC and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded resources to provide technical assistance on a range of public health issues. The session provided an overview of public health law and described the resources available to OSTLTS grantees at no cost.


Public Health Law and Policy

Questions and Answers:

Q: We have one of the Public Health Law Network centers at the University of Maryland. How does that network work with the Public Health Law Program at CDC?

A: The CDC Public Health Law Program works closely with the Public Health Law Network. The director of the Network, Dan Stier, was a member of our program until last year. We also have close working relationships with each of the directors of the regional centers and have collaborated with them on various projects.

Q: Is there an effort to assess how effectively we are using public health laws across the nation- something to see where we are and what we should work on?

A: While there has not been a formal process to evaluate laws from an evaluation point of view. Historically we can point to laws that have made significant positive impacts on public health. For example, tobacco excise taxes have significantly reduced tobacco consumption and seat belt/restraint laws have reduced motor vehicle injuries. When public health laws are drafted, the focus of the legislation or the regulation is to stay true to the science and implement legal strategies that support promising or proven scientific approaches to improving public health outcomes.

Q: What should CDC, APHA, and STLTS do to get policy and laws off the ground?

A: Again, staying true to the science, we should work together to identify which issues can best be addressed by public health laws and identify jurisdictions that have successfully used public health law to advance public health goals – examining both the text of the law and what strategies the jurisdictions used to implement and enforce the laws. CDC is in a unique position to bring together experts in public health law and policy, science subject matter experts, health department officials, and legislators to develop strategies for improving public health outcomes.

Q: What should states expect when asking CDC for assistance, such as spokesperson testimony (referring to recent situation in Hawaii with sugar-sweetened beverage legislation)?

A: Give lots of lead times… it may involve a lots of time for clearance, etc… But CDC does provide that kind of assistance.

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