Online Program

Finding a “common ground” to build the field of public health law research

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 5:30 p.m. - 5:45 p.m.

Jennifer Ibrahim, PhD, MPH, Public Health, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Scott Burris, JD, Beasley School of Law, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Researchers have been conducting evaluations of laws that impact population health for many years with considerable variation in methodological rigor. Starting with a group of 7,158 peer-reviewed articles authored by known public health law researchers between 1985 and 2012, we systematically reviewed abstracts to determine whether each article reported on an empirical study that assessed the impact of specific laws and regulations on public health. We assessed the articles for health topic, type of law, key variables, method of analysis and conclusion regarding effect of the law. The evaluation revealed several limitations that must be addressed in order to advance the field of public health law research and the use of evidence to drive policy development. One limitation was a lack of precise measurement of the law – dichotomous variables rather than measurement of individual provisions of the law. Technological advances are helping to more precisely measure laws over time in a systematic and replicable manner. A second limitation was the lack of clearly defined mediators and/or moderators through which the law works, resulting in misspecification of the hypothesized relationship. Integration of theory from other disciplines is helping to better understand the process through which law drives change. The creation of a multidisciplinary “common ground” which allows investigators to continue to identify as a researcher of a particular public health issue (tobacco, transportation, injury, etc) yet participate in an ongoing dialogue to advance evaluation of public health laws is essential the sustainability of the field of public health law research.

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 current trends in empirical public health law research, including topic areas with greatest emphasis. Describe opportunities for revisiting previous studies with improved data availability or research methods. Discuss key elements for developing rigorous evaluations of laws impacting population health.

Keyword(s): Health Law, Public Health Research

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Jennifer Ibrahim, PhD, MPH is an Associate Professor of Health Policy and the Associate Director of the Public Health Law Research National Program Office. Dr. Ibrahim is actively engaged in public health law research and working to build the field of public health law research through improved research methods.
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.