Topic Summary

The field of public health law research is the scientific study of the relation of law and legal practices to population health. Laws have improved the public’s health by influencing individual behavior (e.g., seatbelt use and immunizations) and the physical and social environment in which people live (e.g., regulating exposure to lead, mandating smoke-free workplaces and limiting sales of hazardous products). Laws not designed as health measures also influence public health for better or worse. Rigorous, credible research can inform and guide the crafting and implementation of laws that have an effect on public health.

Building the Evidence

Public Health Law Research (PHLR) is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. PHLR helps build the evidence base for laws that improve public health.

Primary activities include:

  • Funding research
  • Improving research methods
  • Making evidence more accessible to researchers, policy-makers, advocates and the media

PHLR funds research through an annual call for proposals and ongoing requests for studies that need to be conducted and completed because of timely opportunities or immediate needs.

Technical Assistance Capacity

From research to application, PHLR and the Network for Public Health Law are complementary initiatives that support the effective use of the law to promote, improve and protect public health. The two programs can help facilitate contact between researchers and those who are engaged in improving public health.