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11-state regional Public Health Law Network office to be established at ASU College of Law

The Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University has been named a regional office for the national Public Health Law Network, which launches today to provide legal and policy solutions to professionals grappling with complex public health challenges such as food safety, health reform and emergency preparedness.

The College's Public Health Law and Policy Program (PHLPP) received a $1.325 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to establish the Network's Western region center on the ASU Tempe campus. Working with the University of New Mexico School of Law in Albuquerque, the Network is helping public health authorities and partners in 11 states assess and apply the law to pressing public health issues. The states in the Western region are Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

"Public health practitioners, lawyers, policy-makers and advocates rely on the law to help build communities that are healthy and safe for their citizens," said ASU President Michael M. Crow. "ASU is proud to be a partner in this crucial national effort to give those to whom the public's health has been entrusted better tools to protect, promote and improve the lives of citizens throughout the West and across the country."

The Network delivers technical assistance and provides education and training to public health officials at the local, state, federal and tribal levels by developing, implementing and enforcing laws to help solve public health problems. Among the topics covered:

  • Cross-border public health
  • Emergency legal preparedness and response
  • Tribal public health
  • Tobacco control
  • Environmental public health
  • Food safety
  • Health reform
  • Health information data sharing
  • Injury prevention and safety
  • Public health agency accreditation and regionalization

"In just one year of operation, the Public Health Law and Policy Program at the College of Law has become a national leader in addressing crucial issues of our public health system," said Dean Paul Schiff Berman of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. "The partnership with Robert Wood Johnson solidifies this position and provides us with resources to make a real impact in using law to help craft public health solutions across the West."

The Western region office is co-directed by PHLPP Director James G. Hodge Jr., the ASU Lincoln Professor of Health Law and Ethics, and Clifford M. Rees at the University of New Mexico.

The four other regional centers are housed at the Public Health Law Center at Williams Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minn., the University of Maryland School of Law, working with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, both in Baltimore, the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, and the North Carolina Institute for Public Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in Chapel Hill, working with the National Health Law Program.

"The use of law as a tool to improve the public's health," noted Hodge, "is a transformative theme in public health practice and theory, but it relies on enhanced understanding and application of laws to promote population health outcomes. The Network will help build relationships and share information to strengthen the role of law to address public health issues."

Initial funding for the Network has been provided by the RWJF, which also supports the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity, Public Health Law Research and the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium.

"We are excited to help launch this national resource center that will improve the health of families and communities around our nation," said Michelle Larkin, 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."

The center at ASU will build on the work in emergency legal preparedness in which Hodge and the College of Law's PHLPP have been leaders. For example, during the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) epidemic, Hodge's program accumulated specific data ( about the outbreak and reported it in real time to public health law and policy-makers. The project reported specifically on the legal environment concerning declarations of emergencies at the federal and state levels, as well as specific legal issues related to response efforts.


Contact: Janie Magruder
Arizona State University

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