221733 Systematic Search Methods for Public Health Law Studies

Monday, November 8, 2010 : 4:45 PM - 5:00 PM

Scott Burris, JD, LLD , Beasley School of Law, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Sara Abiola, JD , School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, MA
Michelle M. Mello, JD, PhD, MPhil , School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, MA
Jennifer Ibrahim, PhD, MPH , Public Health, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Many types of public health law research, from mapping studies that describe the legal landscape across the states to controlled analyses of the effects of particular laws on health outcomes, involve the creation of a database of state laws. The quality and reproducibility of such research hinges on development and application of a rigorous, reliable methodology for finding and categorizing laws. However, strong search protocols remain the exception rather than the rule in the field. This session will present an approach for identifying state statutes and regulations that can be applied to a broad range of legal topics. It will discuss the challenges involved in creating public health law databases, best uses of available legal search engines to find statutes and regulations, methodologies for developing a categorization scheme for laws on a particular topic, strategies for converting categorization schemes into keyword searches, strategies for finding historical bill and regulation text, and advice for creating a scientific protocol to guide and reflect the search methodology. These issues will be illustrated through a practical example, a 50-state study of the effects of state laws aimed at curbing youth obesity. The session will also discuss the limitations of the methodology and how complementary methods, such as implementation studies and key informant interviews, can be used to overcome them.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related research
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Assess the rigor of processes used to gather and classify state public health laws Formulate a rigorous, reliable protocol for identifying state statutes and regulations on a particular topic

Keywords: Law, Research

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Associate Director of the Public Health Law Research program and one of the team members for one of the two studies discussed in this presentation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.