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Public Health Law News Round-Up – November 2018

posted on Tue, Dec 4 2018 2:30 pm by The Network for Public Health Law

Some of the public health law and policy stories that made headlines recently include statewide initiatives to combat premature births; the midterm election results and Medicaid expansion; childhood trauma as a public health crisis; FDA crackdown on menthol in tobacco; changes to the SNAP program that may worsen food insecurity; concern over a major chickenpox outbreak in North Carolina; and one city’s success in lowering their overdose rate by 50%.  

Premature Birth Rates Rise Again, But A Few States Are Turning Things Around – NPR, Nov. 1

Prematurity is a leading contributor to infant death in the U.S., and according to a new report by the March of Dimes, the rate of premature birth across the U.S. has risen for the third year in a row.

Some states have found success in lowering their preterm birth rate by expanding access to care and providing appropriate interventions, such as developing special task forces to expand insurance coverage for pregnant and postpartum women.

Three Deep Red States Vote to Expand Medicaid – New York Times, Nov. 7

Voters in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah on Tuesday approved Medicaid expansion through ballot initiatives, and are poised to join 33 other states that have expanded Medicaid.

Trump Administration Finalizes Birth Control Opt-Out Policy – TIME, Nov. 8

The Trump Administration has finalized a policy change that allows some employers, such as religious organizations, nonprofits and small businesses with religious or moral objections to opt out of providing no-cost birth control for female workers.

Should Childhood Trauma Be Treated As A Public Health Crisis? – NPR, Nov. 9

A recently published study suggests approaching childhood trauma as a public health crisis could be more effective than focusing purely on treatment to individuals.

A public health approach would call for policy solutions, with legislation like the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities act, which recognizes the link between early childhood trauma and substance abuse and includes grants to improve trauma support services in schools.

The FDA cracks down on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars – Vox, Nov. 15

Tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., and e-cigarettes have increased in popularity among teens in recent years. The FDA announced a series of moves meant to drive young people away from tobacco products, such as banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars and restricting the sales of flavored e-cigarettes in stores and online.

By targeting SNAP, the expanded “public charge” rule could worsen food insecurity – Urban, Nov. 15

Under a proposed expansion of the “public charge” rule targeting SNAP, noncitizens using benefits from programs like SNAP or Medicaid would be penalized when applying for citizenship or permanent resident status.

Studies have shown that SNAP reduces food insecurity and the expansion of the public charge rule may result in more families experiencing poor health outcomes.

Anti-vaccination stronghold in N.C. hit the state’s worst chickenpox outbreak in 2 decades – Washington Post, Nov. 19

North Carolina is experiencing its worst chickenpox outbreak in more than 20 years, and the outbreak is concentrated in a school where many families claim religious exemption from vaccines.

The CDC warns that Chickenpox can be serious, “even life-threatening.” Forty-seven states allow religious exemptions to vaccine requirements, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

This City’s Overdose Deaths Have Plunged. Can Others Learn From It? – New York Times, Nov. 25

Dayton, OH had one of the nation’s highest overdose death rates in 2017. In 2018, they reduced their rate by over 50%. Experts attribute the decline to Medicaid expansion, increased access to naloxone, and collaboration between law enforcement and public health representatives.


Network attorneys are available to answer questions on public health topics at no cost to you, and can assist you in using law to advance your public health initiatives. Visit the Network’s website for a list of Network attorneys in your area.

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.

Support for the Network is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, RWJF.

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