Health Justice in 2018

Dear Colleagues,

I’ll start by wishing you a happy and healthy 2018.

At the Network we are hopeful as we look forward to the year ahead. We see organizations across the country of every size and stripe working tirelessly, despite threats and challenges from numerous fronts, to ensure that ALL Americans are given a fair chance to live healthy and productive lives.

The past year was extremely difficult for so many of us. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria devastated Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, and wildfires destroyed whole neighborhoods in California. Communities found themselves battling discriminatory policies along racial, religious and gender lines. Many Americans feared they would lose their health coverage. Mass shootings took more innocent lives, and the opioid epidemic marched on.

Through each of these and other challenges, organizations, agencies and programs like yours were steadfast in your efforts to support and protect struggling communities and vulnerable populations. And this is what makes us hopeful for the new year as we continue our work now and in the months ahead to advance health justice.

Inequality in many forms can be caused by discriminatory laws and policies, which sadly often increase the burden on those with the least amount of options or resources. We’ve seen many important safeguards diminished or dismantled in the past year, seemingly without any regard for evidence-based guidance or clear reasoning. Nowhere is this more profound than in public health.

At its core, health justice is about addressing the systemic inequities that create conditions for poor health outcomes.

While it has always been central to what we do, in 2018 the Network will prioritize 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 will focus on these areas:

  • Access to health care;
  • Protections against health risks and injury;
  • Protections against discriminatory practices;
  • Strengthening efforts of local, Tribal and state public health agencies.

Through research, analysis, strategic guidance, education and collaborative initiatives, we will work with you and others in 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. Our priorities include:

  • Medicaid, telemedicine, scope of practice and other levers to increase access to care;
  • Evidence-based interventions to address opioid addiction and overdose;
  • Addressing toxic stress, adverse childhood experiences, and trauma to promote mental health and well-being at the population level;
  • Improving health and safety conditions across market-rate, public and low-income housing;
  • Protection for communities from, during, and in the aftermath of natural and other disasters;
  • Optimizing ways in which data can be used to improve population health, including identifying and reducing health inequities;
  • Identifying mechanisms, like tax incentives, to promote health;
  • Public health authority and protections.

We recognize the critical need to increase effective, strategic collaboration among those using the power of law to achieve health equity. I invite you to connect with the Network now and throughout the year to let us know how we can help you with your strategies and initiatives, and to join us in October at the 2018 National Public Health Law Conference to build a movement to advance health justice. Indeed our conference theme, Health Justice: Empowering Public Health and Advancing Health Equity is a call to you and others who are committed to the ideal that everyone should have the opportunity to live in good health.

Stronger together, we can make this a year of great progress.


Donna E. Levin
National Director
The Network for Public Health Law