Public health laws are critical because they can dramatically improve the health of a population, and in a relatively short period of time. But knowing how to enforce, implement or change a law is complex and time-consuming and requires specialized expertise. The Network for Public Health Law (Network) provides that assistance, along with resources and training to public health officials, practitioners, advocates and attorneys so that they can make full use of the law as a tool to improve health outcomes. Organizations and individuals committed to improving public health can join the Network at no cost.
While it has always been central to what we do, the Network is focusing on efforts and initiatives that identify and address discriminatory laws and policies that lead to disadvantage and disparities in the health of communities.
Our health justice work focuses on these areas:
Through research, analysis, strategic guidance, education and collaborative initiatives, we work with local, Tribal, state and federal agencies, as well as advocacy organizations, community groups and philanthropic programs to identify legal and policy solutions and opportunities to protect health and promote positive health outcomes.
The Flint water crisis and rising health disparities, the threat of Zika virus to pregnant women and their babies, hurricanes and the need for emergency authority and response, the relentless toll of the opioid epidemic — the Network has played a critical role in helping public health respond effectively to these and other timely health issues. For example:
Public Health Emergency Response Legal Guidance and Support
Public health officials often face critical legal and policy decisions during public health emergencies; conflicting laws and overlapping jurisdictions further complicate response efforts. When Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria hit landfall, the Network provided real-time legal guidance and support to public health officials and practitioners to help them address legal issues that would hinder recovery efforts, coordination of efforts among agencies, deployment of personnel and other aspects of response.
Analysis and Guidance on Legal Interventions to Overdose Mortality
The Network is at the forefront of legal and policy work related to the current opioid epidemic, which claims the lives of more than 43,000 Americans every year. Through our research and analysis, the Network has informed the creation of effective laws and policies to prevent deaths from overdose. Our work has been recognized by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and advocacy groups around the country.
Guidance on Health Data Sharing and Privacy for Flint Lead Registry
When Michigan State University was funded to establish a registry of Flint residents exposed to lead contaminated water from the Flint Water System, they turned to the Network. Our subject matter experts are providing legal technical assistance and recommendations to the Registry to support data collection and sharing that meets legal and regulatory requirements and maintains the community’s trust. The registry will help Flint address community health concerns related to lead exposures, monitor health outcomes among registrants, and expand efforts to reduce and eliminate lead in the community. Additionally, the legal template created by the Network for cross-jurisdictional sharing of immunization information has been recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for adoption by state health agencies.
The Network provides both local and national support through its National Office and five Regional Offices — Northern, Eastern, Mid-States, Southeastern and Western.