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

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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Equitable Law and Policy Solutions to Mitigate Health Risks from Climate Change and COVID-19

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19 and Health EquityEnvironment, Climate and HealthNeighborhood and Built Environment

September 23, 2020
by Betsy Lawton, Dawn Hunter and Leila Barraza

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists in the United States, climate change and weather-related health risks, such as hurricanes, wildfires, and extreme heat, will put even greater pressure on the nation’s health and healthcare resources. There are short-term actions that can be taken to protect the health of vulnerable people along with longer-term solutions that can create equitable and resilient communities that can better respond to future disasters.

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Protect and Improve Air Quality to Prevent High Mortality Rates from Future Pandemics

Law & Policy InsightsEnvironment, Climate and Health

April 21, 2020
by Betsy Lawton

As the earth’s climate warms and animals and humans relocate to more habitable locations, increased interactions with a variety of wildlife in new and different contexts places humans at risk of new viruses, making preventative measures to reduce pollution and address underlying health vulnerabilities such as asthma, chronic lung disease, or heart conditions even more important.

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As Temperatures Rise, Equitable Tree Cover can Help Mitigate the Health Risks from Urban Heat Islands and Address Health Inequities within Communities

Law & Policy InsightsEnvironment, Climate and Health

January 30, 2020
by Betsy Lawton

Trees are beautiful, but are they also a cure for climate change related health hazards? We know that trees beautify urban spaces, increase property values, reduce stress, improve mental health, and benefit communities by reducing crime rates and increasing social cohesion. But tree cover can also provide significant cooling benefits to offset dangerous temperatures during extreme heat events, which are on the rise in urban areas as a result of climate change.

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Water Quality and Public Health – Preparing for a Changing Climate

Law & Policy InsightsEnvironment, Climate and Health

October 23, 2019
by Betsy Lawton

Human exposure to waterborne illnesses will increase as climate change creates more extreme precipitation events that drive harmful pollutants that into fresh waters used for drinking, bathing, swimming, and boating. Rising global temperature is also predicted to promote the growth of pathogens and toxic algae blooms in freshwater. Communities recognizing these threats are establishing adaptation plans and policies to prevent increased risks to human health as the climate changes.

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