Betsy Lawton is a senior staff attorney at the Network’s Northern Region Office, where she provides legal technical assistance, delivers presentations and lectures, and builds connections in many areas of public health law. Before joining the Network, Betsy spent over a decade working to improve water quality as an attorney with Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), where she focused on Clean Water Act implementation and enforcement, reducing agricultural pollution, and preventing drinking water contamination, and represented a broad range of individuals and communities facing water pollution problems. Betsy received her JD, and a Certificate of Environmental Law, from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame.

Articles & Resources

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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Declarations of Racism as a Public Health Crisis: Utilizing Declarations to Address Health Inequities

WebinarsCOVID-19 and Health EquityMechanisms for Advancing Public HealthRacism as a Public Health Crisis

January 21, 2021
by Betsy Lawton and Dawn Hunter

Attend this webinar to: learn where such declarations or statements have been issued, hear specific examples of actions that jurisdictions are taking at state and local levels, and obtain practical steps for using racial equity tools to help ensure meaningful implementation that will have concrete real-world impacts.

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Renewable Energy Standards: A Strategy to Transition Rapidly Away From the Use of Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas to Clean, Safe, and Affordable Renewable Energy

Issue BriefEnvironment, Climate and HealthMechanisms for Advancing Public Health

December 16, 2020
by Betsy Lawton and Jill Krueger

Renewable energy standards—often called Renewable Portfolio Standards—are important in hastening the transition from fossil fuels to renewable and low-carbon energy sources, slowing climate change and bringing immediate health benefits to communities. This issue brief, produced collaboratively by the Network and the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, outlines how renewable energy standards work and the important role they play in advancing health and health equity.

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Assessing Efforts to Ensure Equitable Access to Broadband Services that Support Public Health

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19 and Health EquityTelehealthTribal HealthMechanisms for Advancing Public HealthRural Health

October 8, 2020
by Betsy Lawton

Today, home broadband service can connect people to a wide range of services that support healthy outcomes; however broadband is one of the most unequal essential services in the United States. Individuals who lack high-speed broadband service at home are unable to access their classrooms, jobs and job opportunities, telehealth services, social supports, civic opportunities, and even disaster relief information.

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