Thursday, April 22, 2021
National Minority Health Month is an opportunity to build awareness about health disparities and to provide communities the information they need to take action. This month, we are sharing perspectives from our staff and partners on health issues like disparities related to youth suicide and the war on drugs, as well as law and policy solutions to achieve greater equity in health outcomes, including examples for community members and state and local governments. Highlighting this year’s theme, the first section addresses the importance of building trust and ensuring Black communities are #VaccineReady. Read more.
Federal Investment Shows Promise in Helping to Bridge the Digital Divide
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.
The Public Health Implications of Housing Instability, Eviction, and Homelessness
Housing instability causes and exacerbates health problems, erodes communities, and drives health inequities. Eviction specifically imposes damaging health consequences that can last lifetimes, or even generations. Laws and policies at both the state and community levels can work to address these negative impacts and promote housing stability. This tool outlines the law and policy actions that can be taken to address housing instability.
Law and Policy Pathways to Addressing Rising Youth Suicide Rates
Death by suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24. Certain youth populations, children and young people, are particularly vulnerable, including rural, Indigenous, and LGBTQ youth. Black youth have also experienced troubling increases in suicide deaths and attempts. Female youth historically have higher rates of suicide attempts relative to male youth, but male youth have higher rates of death by suicide; there is evidence, however, that this gap is narrowing due to increased rates of completed female youth suicides. There is broad consensus that suicide risk is multi-factored. As such, effective suicide prevention strategies require a multi-dimensional, holistic, and intersectional approach. This resource can assist in decision-making processes and resource allocation to reduce youth suicide.
Access to Treatment for Individuals with Opioid Use Disorder
The Network has joined with public health law partners to produce a new report, COVID-19 Policy Playbook: Legal Recommendations for a Safer, More Equitable Future, examining policy challenges and opportunities in light of the pandemic. In this Q&A, the Network’s Corey Davis and Amy Lieberman discuss some of the key elements in the chapter they co-authored for the report including the positive impact of opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment, recent changes to increase access to that treatment, and recommendations for permanently reducing legislative and regulatory barriers to effective, evidence-based interventions for OUD.
APHA Panel Discussion—COVID-19 Policy Playbook: Legal Recommendations for a Safer, More Equitable Future
The American Public Health Association (APHA) and Public Health Law Watch hosted a virtual panel during National Public Health Week 2021, featuring authors of the recently released COVID-19 Policy Playbook: Legal Recommendations for a Safer, More Equitable Future. Panelists discussed their analyses and recommendations from the report on how policymakers can better respond to COVID-19 and prepare for future pandemics, from strengthening the public health system to expanding access to health care, including Medicaid; and reimagining how the laws of work, commerce and movement could better protect the American people in the recovery and beyond. The playback is available here.
National Legal Paradigms for Public Health Emergency Responses
In this article, available on SSRN, James Hodge, Jr., director of the Network’s Western Region office, discusses how, at the root of American failures to adequately respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, is a battle over which level of government—federal or state—should actually “call the shots” to quell national emergencies. He notes that constitutional principles of cooperative federalism suggest both levels of government are responsible. Yet, real-time applications of these principles, coupled with dubious national leadership, contributed to horrific public health outcomes across America, and call for new paradigms for Twenty-first century public health crisis planning, preparedness, and response.
Drug Harm Reduction
Corey Davis, deputy director of the Network’s Southeastern Region Office and director of the Network’s Harm Reduction Legal Project recently co-authored these articles on opportunities and challenges in access to care and treatment for people who use drugs.
Harm Reduction, By Mail: the Next Step in Promoting the Health of People Who Use Drugs
This article, published in the Journal of Urban Health argues that providing harm reduction supplies, including sterile injection equipment and naloxone for overdose reversal, reduces morbidity and mortality for people who use drugs. Yet, despite the strong public health imperative, scaling these services to people in need has been slow and inadequate.
Your interest in the work of the Network is important. Together, we can advance law as a tool to improve public health. Please forward the Network Report and encourage others to join the Network!
The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state.