The Network for Public Health Law - Mid-States Region recently created two toolkits for ASTHO’s Public Health Emergency Law – Legal Barriers Project, designed to address the key information needs of public health officials in understanding and using legal authorities to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies. The Emergency Volunteer Toolkit addresses key concepts regarding emergency response volunteers, including types of volunteers, federal and state laws governing or affecting volunteers, and volunteer registration. The Public Health & Information Sharing Toolkit addresses key concepts regarding public health agencies' authority to collect, use, and share information to prepare for and respond to a public health emergency.
Last week President Obama signed into law the Pandemic and All Hazards Reauthorization Act (PAHPRA), which reauthorizes federal programs to develop medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear weapons. It will also help assure state and local governments, as well as hospitals and other medical providers, have the resources to prepare for and respond to a bioterrorism attack or pandemic outbreak. PAHPRA spurs significant changes in emergency preparedness law and policy. The Network’s Western Region is examining key issues underlying PAHPRA in conjunction with federal and state partners, and can provide legal technical assistance as needed. Contact information for the Western Region can be found here.
According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health there are approximately 353,000 current methamphetamine (“meth”) users in the United States. In general, people are familiar with the detrimental health issues associated with the use of methamphetamines. The public health threat caused by meth use is compounded by the dangerous toxins created in its production, and this threat persists even after the lab is shut down. Those who live in homes or rental housing previously used as meth labs can face health problems from the toxins that linger in the environment. Mathew Swinburne, staff attorney at the Network’s Eastern Region, examines the meth lab remediation issue in this blog, with an accompanying 50-State Survey of Laws and Regulations and Issue Brief. The issue was also addressed in an earlier Network blog relating to a discussion of relevant Indiana laws which can be accessed here.
In 2011, the superbug Klebsiella pneumonia infected 17 patients, 11 of whom died, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Washington D.C. Such antibiotic-resistant superbugs are increasingly becoming a medical threat, as regular sanitation protocols are ineffective at stopping them. Some hospitals have taken drastic measures to contain the spread of the superbugs, isolating patients behind newly built walls and flooding rooms that had formerly housed them with vaporized hydrogen peroxide. For hospitals and their insurers these superbugs pose a serious legal problem – mainly, what measures need to be taken to avoid a
superbug-related liability. Read more about this issue and the legal concerns.
Electronic cigarettes (E-Cigs) deliver nicotine without tobacco, produce water vapor instead of smoke, and often come in candy-like flavors such as chocolate and cherry. Proponents of the products often claim they are a safe alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. But despite such claims, E-Cigs pose a number of concerns: Their candy flavors are likely to attract young consumers, and the health effects of the products are still largely unknown. And, while state lawmakers are paying close attention to how the products are marketed to minors, there is currently very little regulation of E-Cigs. Read more.
Recently the Network received a request from a health official who asked how other states regulate the practice of midwifery. Midwives are health professionals who provide care to women during pregnancy and childbirth. The use of midwives in childbirth settings has risen steadily in the United States in the last several decades, as described in a June 2012 article in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. However, state regulatory authorities vary considerably in how they recognize different midwife certifications and regulate the practice of midwifery.
The Network researched the issue and referred the official to a relevant resource from the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), which summarizes the midwifery regulatory structures in all fifty states in table form.
The Network also referred the requestor to a judicial opinion from the state of Kansas (State Bd. of Nursing v. Ruebke, 913 P.2d 142 (Kan. 1996)) which outlines many of the relevant legal issues concerning the regulation of midwifery.
Contact the Network to get legal assistance.
The Center for Health Law Practice and Policy, located at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, is currently looking for an Injury Prevention Legal Fellow. The Legal Fellow will support and help create a policy strategy for priority areas in the Violence and Injury Prevention Program, as well as provide legal research and coding for the Public Health Law Research’s LawAtlas project. This is a grant-funded position. To learn more about this opportunity, visit the Temple University website and use job number TU-16365 to search for the listing.
Kerri McGowan Lowrey, J.D., M.P.H., is deputy director at the Network for Public Health Law—Eastern Region based at the University of Maryland School of Law. Kerri has more than 11 years of experience in health law and policy research, primary and secondary legal and legislative analysis, and empirical legal and legislative research. Her areas of research have included the role of law in cancer prevention, particularly in the areas of tobacco use and obesity prevention; health disparities and social determinants of health; the use of epidemiological evidence in courts; child welfare law; and legal and ethical implications of emerging technologies. Read more about Kerri.
Kerri recently posted this blog on states’ implementation of youth concussion laws and offers some preliminary findings from an interview study of states’ experiences implementing the laws.
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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.