Legal Interventions to Address Us Reductions in Life Expectancy

Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), published online first, August 24, 2020, at E1-E2. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2020.7715.

Posted: 28 Aug 2020

See all articles by Lawrence O. Gostin

Lawrence O. Gostin

Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

James G. Hodge

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Donna Levin

Network for Public Health Law

Date Written: August 24, 2020

Abstract

In a 2019 report by Woolf and Schoomaker, average life expectancy in the U.S. was revealed to be in decline from 2014-2017, a trend which the COVID-19 pandemic is anticipated to exacerbate in 2020. As we assess in this commentary, concerted actions to address these declines are highly warranted. Among many potential solutions, “legal determinants of health,” namely how law can address underlying causes of premature mortality, provide clear options for policymakers seeking to reverse these trends for the next decade. Cost-effective, evidence-based laws can safeguard the public’s health, reduce disparities, and extend life expectancy across socio-economic groups, especially in disproportionately impacted U.S. regions. These benefits are often achievable without substantial public sector funding increases.

Yet, public health laws are underutilized. Variations in legal innovations lead to uneven applications of evidence-based laws and geographic disparities in key health indicators. Federal inaction lends to legal inconsistencies in socially controversial spheres, including firearms, reproductive health, and commercial taxation and regulation. Federal and state authorities increasingly preempt lower level public health laws, impeding grassroots initiatives in food and nutrition, environment, or consumer litigation.

Declinations in U.S. life expectancy requires a resetting of national health priorities especially against the backdrop of the greatest public health infectious disease threat of the 21st century. Evidence-based, cost-effective laws can reverse ongoing declines in health and longevity, and help improve social determinants.

Keywords: Health Care Policy, Health Disparities, Health Policy, Law and Medicine, Population Health, Tobacco and e-Cigarettes, Public Health, Firearms

Suggested Citation

Gostin, Lawrence O. and Hodge, James G. and Levin, Donna, Legal Interventions to Address Us Reductions in Life Expectancy (August 24, 2020). Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), published online first, August 24, 2020, at E1-E2. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2020.7715. , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3681587

Lawrence O. Gostin (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9038 (Phone)
202-662-9055 (Fax)

James G. Hodge

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
111 E. Taylor Street, MC 9520
Phoenix, AZ 85004-4467
United States
480-727-8576 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://law.asu.edu/degree-programs/public-health-law-policy

Donna Levin

Network for Public Health Law ( email )

Saint Paul, MN
United States

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