From air bag requirements for cars to smoke-free regulations in restaurants and bars, law has become an increasingly powerful tool to create healthier, safer communities. As a result, those vested in public health – from local, state, federal, and tribal officials and their legal counsel to public health practitioners, policy makers and advocates – have an increasing need for public health legal expertise to help them develop, implement and enforce laws that help solve public health problems.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced today the creation of the Public Health Law Network, a national network designed to provide answers to professionals grappling with complex public health challenges that may warrant legal and policy solutions. As of September 20, anyone working in the fields of public health or law can call or e-mail the Network for guidance on how best to apply the law to their particular public health concern. Public health practitioners, researchers, lawyers, policy makers, and advocates are encouraged to join the Network as the true purpose of the Network is to serve as a conduit to link those in need of expertise to those with the expertise.
The University of Maryland School of Law, working with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH), is one five regional headquarters for the Network, which are spread around the nation at academic institutions. The Eastern Region is comprised of Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Requests from those jurisdictions will come to the Eastern Region. Each region also has areas of particular expertise on which they will provide service nationwide; the Eastern Region’s specialty areas are injury prevention, environmental health and food safety. Other regions will serve as experts on cross-border issues, emergency preparedness, health care reform, information sharing and privacy, and more.
"We are very excited about the Network, which will allow us to support the important work of public health officials and advocates and to create a web of public health law and policy experts who will collaborate to increase the use and effectiveness of public health laws to protect, promote, and improve public health," said Kathleen Dachille, Director of the Network's Eastern Region, and a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, where she serves as Director of the Legal Resource Center for Tobacco Regulation, Litigation and Advocacy.
The Region will be supported by faculty from throughout the School of Law, including Associate Dean Diane Hoffmann, Director of the nationally ranked Law & Health Care Program, and Professor Rena Steinzor of the nationally ranked Environmental Law Program. Supporting faculty from JHSPH include Associate Dean Stephen Teret, Director of the Center for Law and the Public's Health. "We are very proud to be a regional headquarters for the Network. Our selection is a testament to our outstanding faculty and their proven ability to work with colleagues in health, science, and other disciplines to enact laws and policies that benefit the public," said School of Law Dean Phoebe Haddon.
Requests for assistance or information from the Eastern Region can be made by calling 410-706-5575 or at www.publichealthlawnetwork.org. A first response will occur in 72 business hours. RWJF is providing initial funding for the Public Health Law Network and hopes that other organizations will also work with the Network as it expands. The Eastern Region will receive $1.3 million over the next 30 months.
"We are excited to help launch this national resource that will improve the health of families and communities around our nation," said Michelle Larkin, J.D., M.S., R.N., director of the RWJF public health team. "Laws and policies, like those used to create smoke-free environments across the U.S. or those that protect the spread of disease during health emergencies, are some of the most effective and lasting ways to help people be healthy."