246800 Moving from Text to Numbers: Building Datasets for Public Health Law Research

Monday, October 31, 2011: 9:12 AM

Jennifer Ibrahim, PhD, MPH , Public Health, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Evan Anderson, JD , Beasley School of Law, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
One of the primary challenges of conducting rigorous public health law research is the lack of a common language for the many disciplines that engage in the analysis of law and policy. However, data is the element that can bring all groups together. To date, a common approach to legal research has been to use a dichotomous or at best categorical variable to represent the simple existence of a law or an overarching purpose of the law without delving into the more nuanced provisions of the law. By translating law as text into law as coded variables - such as target audiences, enforcement provisions, and enactment dates - legal researchers can now engage with established public health outcomes researchers. By standardizing the development of legal datasets, we can begin to harmonize with existing health datasets to create new opportunities to explore research questions about the mechanisms by which law impacts health. Using the examples of existing datasets created within the Public Health Law Research program on distracted driving laws, obesity prevention laws, and child safety restraint laws, we will demonstrate the ways in which to systematically collect and code a body of laws, including standard variables and terminology to include. We will also provide examples of the range of research questions which can be explored using these new legal datasets along with existing health outcomes datasets.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Explain the concept of legal datasets. Demonstrate the standard protocol for creating a legal database. Explain challenges in the construction of legal data including variable creation and coding.

Keywords: Methodology, Law

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Jennifer Ibrahim is the Associate Director of the Public Health Law Research Program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She has worked on the development of public health law research methods modules and educational materials for the last two years.
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.

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