April Shaw, Ph.D., J.D., is a senior staff attorney at the Network’s Northern Region Office. She has expertise in breaking down the policy impacts of laws and illuminating how theory can inform practice. Her current work includes suicide prevention, racial health equity in the context of climate change, and racial health equity more broadly construed. She is especially interested in thinking through how multiple inequities intersect to create systemic disparities. April has worked at the Project on Predatory Lending at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law school, writing white papers to assist with defrauded students’ defense to repayment claims, and as the Research Scholar at the Center for Public Health Law & Policy at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. She has also worked as a senior law clerk at the Arizona Court of Appeals drafting court opinions and memorandum.

April earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder, specializing in social and political philosophy with a focus on gender justice and critical race theory. She wrote her dissertation on severe global poverty and human rights. April received her J.D. with distinction from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, winning first place in the 2015 Sara Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights Law.

Articles & Resources

Implementing 988 to Strengthen Mental Health and Suicide Prevention: Insights and Lessons Learned So Far


August 24, 2022
by April Shaw

The new dialing code 988, which provides direct access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veterans Crisis Line, is expected to increase mental health and suicide prevention support across the nation. This webinar will provide insight into national policy issues impacting 988 and a deep state-focused dive on 988 implementation in Nebraska. The goal of the webinar is to help those working on 988 implementation gain insight into shared learnings as states and others think through their own processes and equity considerations.  

View page

Cultural Healing: A New (Old) Paradigm For Creating Healthy Communities

Law & Policy InsightsHealth and Health CareHealth ReformMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

April 7, 2022
by April Shaw

In the debate about how to incorporate cultural differences (which are often deeply intertwined with racial identity) into dominant social structures to create just outcomes, cultural healing often receives little attention. Cultural healing reconnects people to the vibrancy and strengths of their culture and in doing so, enhances health and wellness. However, embedding cultural healing practices will require legal reforms that institutionalize culturally inclusive practices.

Read more

Meeting the Promise of Racial Health Equity By Reducing Police Intervention in Suicide Prevention Activities: Law and Policy Solutions

Issue BriefMechanisms for Advancing Health EquityMental Health and Well-Being

December 15, 2021
by April Shaw

This resource assesses suicide risk among communities of color and demonstrates why the demands of racial health equity require taking the problem of police violence seriously and creating systems that reduce contact with police. It also identifies opportunities for limiting the role of law enforcement in suicide prevention and law and policy pathways for how commitments set forth in declarations of racism as a public health crisis can be put into action.

View page

Climate Change, Health Equity, and Public Health Law Learning and Practice Collaborative

Network NewsEnvironment, Climate and HealthMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

December 8, 2021
by April Shaw and Madeline Kim

The Network for Public Health Law is accepting applications for the Climate Change, Health Equity, and Public Health Law Learning and Practice Collaborative (Climate LPC) – a learning and practice collaborative for partners interested in the intersection of climate change and health equity to discuss law and policy solutions to mitigate public health impacts from climate change.

Read more

Climate Change, Health Equity, and Public Health Law Learning and Practice Collaborative Informational Webinar

WebinarsEnvironment, Climate and HealthMechanisms for Advancing Health EquityClimate Change, Health Equity, and Public Health Law Learning and Practice Collaborative

November 16, 2021
by April Shaw, Betsy Lawton, Jill Krueger and Madeline Kim

Overview 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. EST | November 16, 2021The Network will be launching applications for our Climate Change, Health Equity, and Public Health Law…

View page

Do Not Fear Critical Race Theory (Or Why Public Health Must Embrace Dissent, Diversity, and Discourse)

Law & Policy InsightsHealth in SchoolMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

October 4, 2021
by April Shaw

There has been a well-publicized attempt across the nation to stop the teaching of “critical race theory” through state legislation, lawsuits, pressure by parents at school board meetings, and other means. A consequence of this legally imposed silence is that persistent, obvious, and consistent patterns of inequality are portrayed as random and individualized rather than resulting from a social system organized around racial and gender lines. This runs counter to a public health approach which is based on understanding how systems impact whole populations.

Read more

Rethinking and Reducing the Role of Law Enforcement in Suicide Prevention Efforts

Law & Policy InsightsMechanisms for Advancing Health EquityMental Health and Well-BeingRacism as a Public Health Crisis

May 18, 2021
by April Shaw

It’s essential to rethink suicide prevention that involves the use of police, and to forge a new path forward that does not result in additional trauma or even death of the very persons whose life—and quality of life—suicide prevention advocates are seeking to protect.

Read more

National Minority Health Month: Raising Awareness and Encouraging Action to Address Health Disparities

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19 and Health EquityMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

April 21, 2021
by April Shaw, Dawn Hunter and Mathew R. Swinburne

Several universities across the U.S. have announced plans to require students to receive a COVID-19 vaccination before heading back to campus for the fall semester. Brown, Cornell, Duke, Northeastern, and Rutgers are among them. Some institutions of higher learning, like Virginia Tech, have determined that they cannot require vaccinations because of the vaccine’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) status, but this stance rests on shaky legal grounds.

Read more