Public Health and law are interwoven, shaping how communities interact and people experience the world around them. Legal mapping is the scientific process of analyzing state laws concerning a particular legal topic at either a particular point in time (cross-sectional) or its change over a period of time (longitudinal). This page features ASTHO’s legal mapping work to plot the legal landscape for public health priorities, beginning with policies intended to prevent overdose.
Unintentional drug overdose is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Some states have enacted "Good Samaritan" laws that create immunities or other legal protections for people who call for help in the event of an overdose to encourage and protect bystanders who may otherwise not be willing to call for fear of being arrested for drug-related crimes. The protection afforded by these laws varies from state to state.
Coverage expansion for Medicaid improves access to care and health outcomes for people with substance use disorder (SUD). In spite of that evidence, as of May 2023, 10 states have failed to expand Medicaid funding to low-income adults as emergency enrollment protections established for COVID-19 end. This coverage gap in the non-expansion jurisdictions denies access to care to more than 1.9 million people living in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
To mitigate the risks associated with prescription opioid use, most states have implemented laws requiring clinicians to obtain informed consent prior to prescribing opioids in at least some circumstances. Informed consent is defined as a communication between a patient and clinician in which the patient agrees to a medical intervention after being informed of the risks, benefits, and alternatives.
Center for Public Health Initiatives, University of Pennsylvania
In this article in AMA Journal of Ethics, Scott Burris and Evan Anderson outline the pandemic-era failures around the use of law for public health and offer recommendations and observations to facilitate a change in the culture and leadership of public health.
Published in the American Journal of Public Health, this article written by staff at the Center for Public Health Law Research identifies and categorizes US state legislation introduced between January 1, 2021, and May 20, 2022 that addresses emergency health authority. The COVID-19 pandemic called for quick, decisive action to limit infections, and when the next outbreak hits, new laws limiting health authority may make such action even more difficult.
State laws setting the scope and limits of emergency authority are crucial to an effective public health response. This suite of legal data captures details of legislation that addresses emergency health authority introduced between January 1, 2021, and May 20, 2022, in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.
This dataset presents state-level statutes and regulations on prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) laws covering reporting requirements, mandates requiring providers to check PDMP databases before prescribing controlled substances, and provisions regulating access.
On an array of health concerns, policymakers have rejected science in favor of lawmaking based on ideology, politics, and religion, to the detriment of public health. This is particularly true of stigmatized health areas such as reproductive health, and especially abortion care.