Mechanisms of Legal Effect: Perspectives from Public Health
Public Health Law Research Methods Monograph Series, Forthcoming
41 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2012
Date Written: April 10, 2012
Public health approaches dating back to the late 18th century and earlier were primarily focused on economic, social and physical environmental conditions that increase risk of morbidity and mortality. As public health and medical breakthroughs of the early 20th century controlled infectious diseases and expanded life expectancy, public health shifted its attention from infectious to chronic disease. This era of public health primarily focused on individual-level risk factors and intervention approaches. Most recently there has been a movement to re-emphasize the importance of fundamental determinants of health and disease, including economic, social and physical conditions.
The public health perspective highlights many mechanisms through which laws affect economic, social and physical conditions that, in turn, affect population distributions of risky or protective exposures and risky or protective behaviors. Exposures and behaviors, in turn, affect population health outcomes. Smoke-free laws, anti-discrimination laws, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) illustrate causal pathways from law to population health outcomes. A wide variety of data are available for exploring mechanisms of legal effects on population distributions of exposures, the health-related behaviors of individuals and organizations, and health outcomes.
Keywords: public health, public health law research, empirical legal studies
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