Litigation as a Public Health Tool: A Modern-Day Public Health Story

Law & Policy InsightsMechanisms for Advancing Public HealthEnvironment, Climate and Health

August 10, 2022
by Kathleen Hoke

Litigation by and against the government and by and against product manufacturers can impact public health as significantly as legislation and funding. A recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with environmentalists, farmworkers, and food safety advocates in their joint lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to adequately consider whether glyphosate (a herbicide that kills grass and weeds) poses unreasonable risks to humans, endangered species, and the environment. Although the court did not issue an order prohibiting or limiting the use of glyphosate, the three-judge panel sent the issue back to the EPA for reconsideration.

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Racial Disparities in Women’s Health

Law & Policy InsightsReproductive Health and Equity Mechanisms for Advancing Health EquityMaternal and Child Health

August 1, 2022
by Erica White

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court made a decision that disproportionately affects the lives of Black and minority women in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization: specifically, access to abortion is not a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution. As a result of this decision, 26 states have already, or will soon, ban abortion with little or no exceptions, leaving approximately 33 million U.S. women lacking abortion access in their home states. Twenty-two states whose laws impose strict abortion restrictions collectively are home to 45 percent of Black women under the age of 55.

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Plata v. Newsom and Its Impact on Health Equity in California’s Prisons

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19 and Health EquityCOVID-19 and Health EquityCOVID-19 Resources

July 27, 2022

In Plata v. Newsom, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar’s order requiring the COVID-19 vaccination of all California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) staff that access CDCR facilities. The Circuit Court found that the CDCR's current partial vaccination policy, which only requires the vaccination of prison staff working in healthcare settings, does not constitute deliberate indifference to the health and safety of incarcerated persons in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. This article presents the facts of Plata v. Newsom and the deliberate indifference standard, describes why the Ninth Circuit’s decision incorrectly interprets this standard, and outlines the health equity concerns and public health implications resulting from the decision.

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Public Health Law News Roundup

Law & Policy Insights

July 14, 2022
by Sadia Mohammed

Some of the public health law and policy issues in the headlines in recent weeks include state and federal responses to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade including President Biden’s executive order expanding access to "medication abortion" and ensuring women’s access to emergency medical care, family planning services, and contraception; the first major gun safety legislation passed by Congress in nearly 30 years; the Supreme Court ruling that limits the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate carbon emissions; and Oregon's ban on synthetic cannabis products.

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Using Law and Policy to Advance Health Equity: Recommendations from the White House Health Equity Task Force

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

July 13, 2022
by Dawn Hunter

On January 21, 2021, the Biden Administration issued a National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness. One of the action items in the plan was to establish the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to make recommendations on strategies to mitigate health and social inequities due to COVID-19. The Task Force concluded its work in October 2021, issuing a Final Report and Recommendations. The report includes 36 recommendations involving law and policy that provide a framework for improving health outcomes.

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Ohio’s Policy Assessment Tool: Q&A With Two of the Tools’ Drafters on Use of the Tool to Improve Health Equity

Law & Policy InsightsMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

June 29, 2022
by Emely Sanchez

Across the country, states and localities are using a variety of strategies to assess the health, equity, and racial impacts of legislative and administrative policies. Recognizing the need for a health equity assessment tool, the Health Equity Network of Ohio recently launched an analytic tool to support implementation of a Health and Equity in All Policies approach in Ohio. In this Q & A, two of the tools’ drafters discuss the opportunities the tools presents to advance health equity in their state.

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The Network’s Fall Summit: Helping the Public Health Community Navigate the Rapidly Changing Field of Cannabis Law

Law & Policy InsightsCannabis Legalization and RegulationMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

June 28, 2022
by Mathew R. Swinburne

Cannabis law and policy is evolving at a blistering pace driven largely by state legalization of medical and adult-use cannabis. While cannabis remains illegal under federal law, there are stirrings of change. In this churn of changing state laws public health is faced with myriad complex issues. How do we address social justice in the shadow of the war on drugs?  What policies are effective in preventing youth access? How can the tax revenue generated by cannabis legalization be used to reinvest in communities disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs? What role can local government play in this dynamic environment?  To help public health stakeholders better navigate critical issues like these, the Network is hosting a Summit on September 13th and 14th in Baltimore City, Maryland to explore pressing issues in cannabis law and policy.

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The Network for Public Health Law Announces Search for New National Director

Network News

June 24, 2022
by Donna Levin

The Network for Public Health Law (Network) is searching for a new National Director to provide strategic direction, lead organizational development, and oversee the work of its National Office and five Region Offices. The ideal candidate is an energetic hands-on leader with unquestionable integrity and high ethical standards, who is able to lead and inspire with an entrepreneurial mindset. The National Director must have exceptional ability to proactively engage and facilitate discussions with a broad range of stakeholders to champion the Network and its mission to provide visionary leadership in the use of law to protect, promote, and improve health and health equity. As the position is integral to ensuring organizational stability and growth, the National Director must have a strong track record in identifying and securing diverse sources of revenue, including philanthropic and government funding, as well as earned-income.

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Information Blocking Rule: A New Tool to Facilitate Public Health Data Collection

Law & Policy InsightsPublic Health Information Management, Privacy and SecurityMechanisms for Advancing Public Health

June 14, 2022
by Stephen Murphy

The COVID pandemic has brought into sharp focus the crucial nature of data in helping drive decision-making, directing public health interventions, focusing limited resources, and allocating precious grant dollars. The new federal Information Blocking Rule may provide local and state health departments with an additional tool to enhance collection of key public health data and overcome some of the barriers to reporting of data by health care providers and others.

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Tougher Criminal Penalties Won’t End Overdose Deaths

Law & Policy InsightsHarm Reduction Legal ProjectMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

June 2, 2022
by Amy Lieberman

In 2021, nearly 108,000 people in the U.S. died of a drug overdose; around 75 percent of those overdoses involved an opioid, largely driven by the increased presence of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, in the nation’s illicit drug supply. While many jurisdictions are making moves toward evidence-based harm reduction measures to save lives, others are increasing penalties for those who possess and sell fentanyl.

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The FDA’s Proposed Rules Prohibiting Menthol in Cigarettes and All Characterizing Flavors in Cigars Will Advance Public Health and Health Equity

Law & Policy InsightsMechanisms for Advancing Health EquityMechanisms for Advancing Public Health

June 1, 2022
by Brooke Torton

Big Tobacco has historically targeted youth, the LGBTQ+ community, and African Americans with tailored marketing campaigns for menthol tobacco products. Menthol is a flavor additive that reduces the harshness and irritation of smoking, and enhances the addictive effects of nicotine in the brain. Similarly, it increases the chances that youth who begin smoking will habitually use these products. On April 28 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took an important step toward advancing health equity by announcing two proposed rules that will reduce tobacco-related health disparities.

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Pivoting to Telehealth: Lessons Learned about Treating Under-Resourced Patients During the Early Days of the COVID-19 Pandemic – and Beyond

Law & Policy InsightsTelehealthMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

May 27, 2022

The early days of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) were daunting for patients and providers alike. In-person health care visits were curtailed, and health care providers had to quickly pivot to telehealth services to ensure access to care for patients. However, the shift to telehealth imposed new barriers to care, such as a lack of broadband/unreliable internet, required devices for telehealth services (smart phones, laptops, etc.), and digital illiteracy. Community Care Cooperative, a Massachusetts-based non-profit, Accountable Care Organization, mobilized during the pandemic to deliver telehealth services in the state and is working to identify operational, legal, and policy challenges to virtual care and create a framework for long-term sustainability of telehealth.

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