Policy Surveillance: A Vital Public Health Practice Comes of Age

33 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2016 Last revised: 2 Sep 2016

See all articles by Scott Burris

Scott Burris

Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Laura Hitchcock

Public Health - Seattle and King County

Jennifer Ibrahim

Temple University; Public Health Law Research National Program Office

Matthew Penn

Government of the United States of America - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Tara Ramanathan

Government of the United States of America - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Date Written: August 18, 2016

Abstract

Governments use statutes, regulations, and policies, often in innovative ways, to promote health and safety. Organizations outside government, from private schools to major corporations, create rules on matters as diverse as tobacco use and paid sick leave. Very little of this activity is systematically tracked. Even as the rest of the health system is working to build, share, and use a wide range of health and social data, legal information largely remains trapped in text files and PDF's, excluded from the universe of usable data. This paper makes the case for the practice of policy surveillance to help end the anomalous treatment of law in public health research and practice. Policy surveillance is the systematic, scientific collection and analysis of laws of public health significance. It meets several important needs. Scientific collection and coding of important laws and policies creates data suitable for use in rigorous evaluation studies. Policy surveillance addresses the chronic lack of readily accessible, nonpartisan information about status and trends in health legislation and policy. It provides the opportunity to build policy capacity in the public health workforce. We trace its emergence over the past fifty years, show its value, and identify major challenges ahead.

Suggested Citation

Burris, Scott C. and Hitchcock, Laura and Ibrahim, Jennifer K. and Penn, Matthew and Ramanathan, Tara, Policy Surveillance: A Vital Public Health Practice Comes of Age (August 18, 2016). Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, Forthcoming; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-42. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2826054

Scott C. Burris (Contact Author)

Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-6576 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.phlr.org

Laura Hitchcock

Public Health - Seattle and King County ( email )

401 5th Ave #1300
Seattle, WA
United States

Jennifer K. Ibrahim

Temple University ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

Public Health Law Research National Program Office ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.publichealthlawresearch.org

Matthew Penn

Government of the United States of America - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ( email )

1600 Clifton Rd., NE
Atlanta, GA 30333
United States

Tara Ramanathan

Government of the United States of America - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ( email )

1600 Clifton Rd., NE
Atlanta, GA 30333
United States

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