Network Report



Public Health Emergencies Declared in Response to Flu Epidemic

Responding to an overwhelming 19,000 reported cases of influenza in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a state of public health emergency on January 12. Among the powers authorized by the declaration, pharmacists in New York are now empowered to administer flu vaccines to patients between six months to 18 years old (implemented through a temporary waiver of existing state law generally allowing them to provide vaccines only to persons age 18 and older). A few days earlier, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had declared a public health emergency for his city, where there were approximately 700 confirmed cases of flu among residents. The Network's Western Region is currently tracking public health emergency legal declarations nationally and is ready to help health officials who may have questions or concerns. Contact information for the Western Region can be found here.

Sodium Watch

Sodium is an essential nutrient, but consuming too much can lead to high blood pressure – a known contributor to cardiovascular disease. Public health leaders worldwide are advocating for voluntary industry standards, sodium reduction goals, public policies and educational campaigns. Examples set by the United Kingdom indicate that these practices could work. Network Visiting Attorney Shari Dawkins examines excess sodium as a public health problem and offers some potential solutions. Read more.

Food Safety

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in early 2011, yet the landmark food safety law has remained largely unimplemented. Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released two new food safety rules that are generating a lot of excitement. The new rules might help switch the food safety industry from reactive to preventive when dealing with foodborne illnesses. Network Attorney Mathew Swinburne discusses these new proposed rules and the challenges the FDA will face in implementing them. Read more.

Evidence-based Contraceptive Insurance Coverage Requirements

The Affordable Care Act requires new group health plans and insurance issuers to cover a wide range of preventive health services. Included among the services required by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations are FDA-approved methods of birth control without cost sharing. Proponents of this rule agree that family planning is a necessary component of preventive care for women, while opponents assert that employers have the right to choose appropriate health plans for employees. Dipti Singh, Staff Attorney at the National Health Law Program, delves into this issue. Read more.

Farm Bill Fact Sheet

The Farm Bill authorizes programs with far-reaching impacts on public health, including nutrition programs, disaster assistance and conservation. In September of 2012, the Farm Bill expired without any long-term congressional action, and only a few critical programs have been temporarily authorized and funded. The American Taxpayer Relief Act, passed on January 1, 2013 contains a one-year extension of some federal agricultural programs. Network Senior Attorney Jill Krueger prepared a new fact sheet that provides an overview of selected provisions relevant to public health that are included in this one-year extension.

Public Health Law Research Program Funds New Studies

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research (PHLR) program announces funding for 12 new research projects investigating the impact of laws on public health. The grants total nearly $2.5 million and will fund studies on specific laws and regulations related to food safety, bullying, distracted driving, alcohol control and other critical public health issues. Read more.

Ask the Experts:

Liability issues for hospitals in emergency response

The Network recently received an inquiry from a requestor who wanted to identify existing research or resources on liability issues for hospitals that engage in emergency response efforts.

The Network responded with several resources related to potential hospital liability following an emergency, including four scholarly articles. The Network also provided the requestor with a Network memo entitled "Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act - Scope of Liability Protections."

Contact the Network to get legal assistance.

Webinar: Youth Concussion Laws

The second webinar in the “Advancing Injury Prevention through Policy” series focuses on youth concussion laws, and will explore preliminary results from an interview survey with state officials and organizational leaders charged with implementation of these laws in their states. Three presenters with different organizational perspectives will share their experiences implementing the laws. The webinar will take place TODAY at 2:30 p.m. ET --  but it’s not too late to register. Details here. The Injury Prevention webinar series is a joint effort of the Network for Public Health Law and the Children’s Safety Network.

Network People

Sarah Somers

Sarah Somers, J.D., M.P.H., is managing attorney at the Network’s Southeastern Region and the National Health Law Program (NHeLP). Sarah specializes in litigation and litigation support, and has expertise in Medicaid and disability issues. She has provided training and analysis to advocates on issues related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Medicaid; the Americans with Disabilities Act; and other publicly-funded health care programs.

Sarah helped produce last week’s Network webinar on the Affordable Care Act, exploring the presidential election’s impact on ACA initiatives that impact public health, along with an “on the ground” look at how the ACA is being implemented at the state and local level.

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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.