Public Health Law Research: Editor's Introduction

Posted: 24 Sep 2013 Last revised: 3 Nov 2013

See all articles by Michelle M. Mello

Michelle M. Mello

Stanford Law School; Department of Medicine

Wendy E. Parmet

Northeastern University - School of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2013


This paper introduces a special issue of the Journal of Health Policy, Politics & Law focusing on public health law legal research (PHLR). PHLR is the "scientific study of the relation of law and legal practices to population health." A relatively new and burgeoning interdisciplinary field, PHLR is comprised of five broad categories of empirical research, each of which are represented in the special issue: policy-making studies which seek to identify factors that influence the adoption of public health legal interventions; mapping studies which employ systematic and rigorous methods of review and characterization to determine the current state of the law on an issue relevant to population health; implementation studies which examine the gap, if any, between the "law on the books" and the law on the ground; intervention studies which examine the effect of law on health outcomes or proximal factors; and mechanism studies which examine the means by which legal interventions influence health. After examining the different categories of PHLR research, and reviewing the six original PHLR papers appearing in the Special Issue, with a particular focus on the methodological issues raised by each, the Introduction explores challenges that PHLR continues to face, as well as possible solutions to those challenges.

Suggested Citation

Mello, Michelle M. and Parmet, Wendy E., Public Health Law Research: Editor's Introduction (August 1, 2013). Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, Vol. 38, No. 4, pp. 629-643, 2013; Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 154-2013. Available at SSRN:

Michelle M. Mello (Contact Author)

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Department of Medicine ( email )

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Wendy E. Parmet

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

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