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Public Health Law


Legal epidemiology is the scientific study and deployment of law as a factor in the cause, distribution, and prevention of disease and injury in a population. 

Image of Legal Epidemiology tree with three branches: 1) Legal Etiology - The study of laws and legal practices as cause of disease and injury; 2) Legal Prevention & Control - the study of laws and legal practices as interventions to prevent disease and injury and as enablers of effective public health administration; and 3) policy surveillance - the systematic collection, analysis and dissemination of laws and policies across jurisdictions or institutions and over time.Legal epidemiology encompasses legal etiology, legal prevention and control, and policy surveillance theory and methods to

  1. Measure the nature and distribution of laws across jurisdictions and over time.
  2. Evaluate the implementation and the impact of legal interventions on public health, and the health effects of non-health laws. 
  3. Analyze the implementation and impact of the laws defining health department powers and duties.
  4. Enable and support the rapid diffusion of healthier laws and policies.

Who Uses Legal Epidemiology?

Legal epidemiology is deeply rooted in a transdisciplinary approach to public health law - calling for true integration of disciplines to collaborate in developing and applying legal epidemiology theory, methods, and conceptual tools. The consumers of legal epidemiology are just as a diverse as the practitioners, and include lawyers, researchers, epidemiologists, social scientists, policymakers, public health practitioners, advocates, the media, and the public. 

Image is of the six steps in legal epidemiology practice: 1) Engage - identify a public health problem or a policy of interest through feedback from the community, subject matter experts and policymakers; 2) Identify research needs - Review existing research and identify gaps to inform new research on laws and policies; 3) Create legal data - conduct a legal mapping study to create empirical legal data that can be compared across jurisdictions and over time; 4) Analyze - Complete a legal evaluation study to analyze the relationship between law and health using empirical legal data linked to outcome data; 5) Translate - publish and communicate findings to inform public health practice, decision-making, and public knowledge via agencies, academia, decision-makers, advocates, media and the public; 6) Monitor and repeat - continue monitoring and measuring legal changes and engaging with the community and stakeholders about the impact of laws, repeating previuos steps as legal changes arise.


Online Resources


Content for this page on Legal Epidemiology was graciously provided by the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University and the Law Section of the American Public Health Association. 

Content for the graphics on this page were developed through a collaboration between the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University, ChangeLab Solutions, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using funding from the CDC under Cooperative Agreement Number NU38OT000141. The views expressed in written materials or publications and by the speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the US Government.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the State of Georgia, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes. Georgia State University College of Law and the authors of the works contained on this website do not assume or accept any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, currentness, or comprehensiveness of the content on this website. The content on this website does not in any manner constitute the issuance of legal advice or counsel. The information on this website is intended to provide resources that may aid the research of the topics presented, and are in no way a comprehensive list of sources one should consult on the topics presented. Please note that case law, statutory law, and administrative law may be modified and/or overturned. Additionally, because the laws vary between jurisdictions, the laws referred to herein may or may not be applicable to the law within the reader’s jurisdiction.