Advancing Public Health Through the Law: The Role of Legal Academics: Workshop Report
10 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2012 Last revised: 6 Nov 2012
Date Written: July 1, 2012
The July 2012 workshop Advancing Public Health Through the Law: The Role of Legal Academics was funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Public Health Law Research Program and convened by the Northeastern University School of Law Program on Health Policy and Law. The workshop brought together nationally recognized public health legal scholars, public health practitioners and advocates, and representatives of grant-making institutions. Through interactive exercises and discussions, participants explored the value that legal doctrine and practice add to public health and ways to strengthen public health law's engagement with public health practice.
The convening of this workshop was motivated by the realization that today public health exists in a shifting institutional, political, and doctrinal environment. This environment threatens to roll back decades of health outcome improvements and advances in social welfare. At the same time, there are a number of new opportunities related to an increasing prominence of evidence-based policy in general and empirical public health law research in particular.
Throughout the meeting, there was a tangible consensus that the current adverse environment makes this a critical time to engage legal academics and their allies in protecting and advancing public health. Based on this consensus, participants were energized by the prospect of moving forward on a coordinated strategy to increase our influence and effectiveness as public health law scholars and advocates. A number of innovative ideas emerged for advancing this agenda: disseminating a persuasive counter narrative to the false dichotomy between "free market" choice and regulation using a variety of channels; embedding public health practitioners within law schools for knowledge transfer residencies; supporting theoretical public health law scholarship through writing competitions, mentorship, and loan forgiveness programs; and integrating public health law content in a wider variety of law and public health courses, including information on strategic litigation, externality theory, and behavioral economics. Given the broad range and scope of the discussion, it was clear that a follow-up meeting should be convened to develop the mission, vision, and specific operational strategies. Drawing on these discussions, this report summarizes the proceedings and next steps to engage legal academics in improving public health.
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