When I look back at 2018, I’m amazed at how much progress we’ve collectively made in protecting the health of communities. More than ever, it seems our agencies and organizations are working in concert on shared objectives and initiatives. Much of this important work was discussed at the 2018 Public Health Law Conference, and will be published in an upcoming special supplement of the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics.
At the Network, we’ve deepened our relationships with partners and created strong connections with new collaborators to work on improving health on a variety of law and policy fronts. In 2019, our focus is on joint initiatives at the systemic and community levels that improve health and health equity. I’d like to highlight some of the work planned for the coming year:
Strengthening the capacity of health agencies and organizations.
Understanding how law and policy impact health enables practitioners and policymakers to make effective use of both to advance community health. With our partners the CDC Public Health Law Program, ChangeLab Solutions, the Public Health Law Center and Temple University’s Center for Public Health Law Research, we’ll advance the Five Essential Public Health Law Services for use by health agencies and organizations as a transdisciplinary approach for the timely adoption and diffusion of effective legal interventions for critical public health issues.
Improving access to, and use of data to support health.
Access to integrated data from different sectors can improve communities’ capacity to plan, monitor and innovate for health improvement. Data Across Sectors for Health (DASH) is a terrific initiative that works to foster multi-sector collaborations to connect information systems and share data for community health improvement. We will be releasing a health data sharing toolkit this month on the Network’s website as part of our work with DASH to help health agencies and organizations navigate data-related laws and regulations. We’ll also work closely with DASH in planning the Network’s 2019 Public Health Law Summit on Health Data Sharing — we’ll be sharing more information about this in the next few weeks.
For public health agencies, data are essential for surveillance, epidemiological investigation, research, and program development. Together with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the University of Michigan School of Public Health and the de Beaumont Foundation, the Network will lead an initiative this year to provide tailored consultations to local health agencies on specific data sharing use cases. This project will increase the capacity of these local agencies to develop and accelerate the adoption of innovative approaches for sharing data to improve the health of their communities.
Advancing approaches to improve child and adolescent health.
School nurses understand the complexities between physical and mental wellbeing and academic achievement, and can play a critical role in advancing child and adolescent health. We plan to expand our work with the National Association of School Nurses to support the critical role of school nurses in education and health for children and adolescents through legal and policy approaches to increase access to care. Our Survey of School Nursing Scope of Practice Laws across 50 states is an example of the type of analysis that can help identify gaps and opportunities.
Addressing the social and structural issues that create health inequities.
Medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) help address the social and structural problems at the root of health inequities. Working with MLPs across the country, as well as the National Center for Medical Legal Partnerships, the Network provides real time consultation to MLPs. In turn, the on-the-ground MLP experience can inform the Network about the health-harming issues clients face, including inadequate or hazardous housing conditions, and barriers to accessing health care. Through this partnership, we can identify and seek to change those laws, policies and practices that perpetuate inequities that cause and exacerbate poor health, and focus our efforts on promising new initiatives that can positively impact health and health equity. We'll be sharing more about this collaboration in the next few weeks.
In addition to our work with MLPs, and with a clear understanding of how health and health equity are intrinsically linked to social determinants of health, in 2018 we also convened a group of attorneys working in education, transportation, health care, social justice and other sectors to map a path for collaboration on law and policy levers. This year, the Cross Sector Attorneys for Health collaborative will launch an initiative focused on one critical public health area where we believe we can collectively make an impact, using our various and diverse expertise, perspectives and networks.
Join us to make real change in 2019!
Donna E. Levin