Understanding how law and policy impact health enables practitioners and policymakers to make effective use of both to advance community health. With our partners, the CDC Public Health Law Program, ChangeLab Solutions, the Public Health Law Center and Temple University’s Center for Public Health Law Research, the Network is working to advance the Five Essential Public Health Law Services for use by health agencies and organizations as a transdisciplinary approach for the timely adoption and diffusion of effective legal interventions for critical public health issues.
In 2018, the Network and the University of Michigan School of Public Health, with funding from the de Beaumont Foundation, partnered to examine the legal implications resulting from the Flint Water Crisis. The analysis resulted in a report, Learning from the Flint Water Crisis: Protecting the Public’s Health During a Financial Emergency, detailing why shortcomings in the structure and implementation of laws related to public health, safe drinking water, and emergency financial management failed to stop or mitigate the Flint water crisis. Along with key findings, the report provides recommendations to help prevent similar crises from happening in other communities.
Access to integrated data from different sectors can improve communities’ capacity to plan, monitor and innovate for health improvement. Data Across Sectors for Health (DASH) is a terrific initiative that works to foster multi-sector collaborations to connect information systems and share data for community health improvement. Created in partnership with DASH, the Network’s data toolkit helps health agencies and organizations navigate data-related laws and regulations.
For public health agencies, data are essential for surveillance, epidemiological investigation, research, and program development. Together with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the University of Michigan School of Public Health and the de Beaumont Foundation, the Network is leading an initiative to provide tailored consultations to local health agencies on specific data sharing use cases. This project will increase the capacity of these local agencies to develop and accelerate the adoption of innovative approaches for sharing data to improve the health of their communities.
School nurses understand the complexities between physical and mental wellbeing and academic achievement, and can play a critical role in advancing child and adolescent health. We are expanding our work with the National Association of School Nurses to support the critical role of school nurses in education and health for children and adolescents through legal and policy approaches to increase access to care. Our Survey of School Nursing Scope of Practice Laws across 50 states is an example of the type of analysis that can help identify gaps and opportunities.
Medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) help address the social and structural problems at the root of health inequities. Working with MLPs across the country, as well as the National Center for Medical Legal Partnerships, the Network provides real time consultation to MLPs. In turn, the on-the-ground MLP experience can inform the Network about the health-harming issues clients face, including inadequate or hazardous housing conditions, and barriers to accessing health care. Through this partnership, we can identify and seek to change those laws, policies and practices that perpetuate inequities that cause and exacerbate poor health, and focus our efforts on promising new initiatives that can positively impact health and health equity.
In addition to our work with MLPs, and with a clear understanding of how health and health equity are intrinsically linked to social determinants of health, in 2018 we also convened a group of attorneys working in education, transportation, health care, social justice and other sectors to map a path for collaboration on law and policy levers. In 2019, the Cross Sector Attorneys for Health collaborative will launch an initiative focused on one critical public health area where we believe we can collectively make an impact, using our various and diverse expertise, perspectives and networks.