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Government should consider public health implications of all major legislation
Date:6/21/2011

WASHINGTON Because strong evidence indicates that policies beyond the health sector have substantial effects on people's health, all levels of U.S. government should adopt a structured approach to considering the health effects of any major legislation or regulation, says a new report by the Institute of Medicine. In addition, federal and state policymakers should review and revise public health laws so that they adequately address current health challenges.

"The law has been an essential factor for improving the public's health through policies such as decreasing tobacco use, increasing road safety, and ensuring the greater healthfulness of our food and water," said Marthe Gold, chair of the committee that wrote the report and Arthur C. Logan Professor and Chair of Community Health and Social Medicine, Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, City College of New York, New York City. "Our report recommends several actions that will ensure that federal, state, and local public health agencies make full use of a broad array of proven legal tools that can improve population health."

Policies and regulations that lie outside the health sector can have a significant impact on people's health, including, for example, government agricultural subsidies that influence the availability and affordability of certain foods, zoning policies that create green space, and education policies that support intellectual and physical growth of America's youth. The report recommends that laws and policies that cross sectors be examined critically for potential positive and negative effects on public health. To address these concerns, government agencies should collaborate to anticipate and evaluate the health effects of major legislation. And because private-sector actions can also have major impacts on the public's health, state and local governments should form health councils to engage other public agencies and private and nonprofit stakeholders in com
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Contact: Molly Galvin
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
National Academy of Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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