Betsy Lawton is a deputy director at the Network’s Northern Region Office, where she works on a variety of public health law issues, bringing a community lawyering perspective to her work on climate change, health equity, broadband access, and rural public health. Before joining the Network, Betsy spent over a decade working to improve water quality and represented a broad range of individuals and communities facing water pollution problems. Betsy received her J.D., and a Certificate of Environmental Law, from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2004 and her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame.

Articles & Resources

Understanding the Intersection Between Climate Change, Housing, and Public Health


May 3, 2022
by Betsy Lawton and Brianne Schell

Climate change is a public health threat that has already begun to erode the availability of safe and accessible housing, a critical social determinant of health. Climate-caused extreme weather events, like increased flooding are not experienced equally across all populations; rather, the primary harms are being disproportionately experienced by frontline communities of color and those living in low-income neighborhoods. Health equity requires identifying law and policy solutions that prioritize the needs of communities most vulnerable to climate harms and understanding the role that climate change plays in undermining housing security. Attend this webinar to learn about these topics, which will include a climate-focused lens as well as identifying law and policy approaches to housing affordability and availability. 

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Racism as a Public Health Crisis—Perspectives on Healthy Aging

ReportRacism as a Public Health Crisis

April 21, 2022
by Betsy Lawton and Dawn Hunter

This report uses a revised Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) framework put forward by Ruqaiijah Yearby to examine the role of law as a tool to address structural discrimination, with a focus on health impacts across the lifespan. This framework illustrates how law and the systems it interacts with can shape health and well-being and identifies structural discrimination as the root cause of disparities in health outcomes. 

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COVID-19 Equity Task Forces as An Opportunity to Advance Health Equity

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19 and Health Equity

February 23, 2022
by Betsy Lawton and Dawn Hunter

Early on in the pandemic, as the inequitable COVID-19 health outcomes experienced by Black, Hispanic, Latino and Latina, and Indigenous communities were becoming more pronounced, many state and local governments created task forces to address the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on communities of color and other marginalized populations. The Network analyzed the composition and role of these task forces, the legal mechanisms establishing them, common categories of task force recommendations and top policy recommendations, and opportunities for task forces to translate recommendations into actions that advance health equity.

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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…

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Drought: It Doesn’t Have to Leave Us High and Dry (and Unhealthy)

Law & Policy InsightsEnvironment, Climate and HealthRural Health

September 8, 2021
by Betsy Lawton

Nearly half of the United States is experiencing abnormally dry conditions this year. The public health implications of drought cannot be underestimated: drought can lead to a lack of clean drinking water, food insecurity, poor air quality, water-borne diseases, mental health concerns, wildfire, and poor sanitation. Solutions that prevent non-essential uses of water, increase natural storage of water in the soil and aquifers, or maintain water and lake levels, may help limit the public health impacts of future droughts by increasing the overall supply of useable water.

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Federal Investment Shows Promise in Helping to Bridge the Digital Divide

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19 and Health EquityMechanisms for Advancing Public HealthRural HealthTelehealth

April 21, 2021
by Betsy Lawton

The digital divide continues to prevent many households and students from accessing online services that can support healthy outcomes. However, federal lawmakers and agencies have recently taken short-term steps to address the largest source of the digital divide—affordability—and some longer-term federal fixes to the digital divide are on the horizon. Permanent federal, state, and local policies and programs must prioritize affordable broadband service for all households and provide regulatory oversight to ensure the digital divide does not exacerbate health inequities now, and in the future.

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