The United States currently ranks last among high‑income countries for life expectancy. Since 2014, U.S. life expectancy has declined. By now, these alarming trends are well known to researchers, the public, and policymakers. Nevertheless, there is no consensus among researchers on the causes of the trends, and there has been no serious and effective bipartisan effort to solve the problem. The dominant narrative has implicated Americans’ behaviors, such as smoking, illicit drug use, and suicide; yet, this narrative is misguided and counterproductive.
This essay reflects on 10 years of legal epidemiology, and projects a research agenda for the next decade of work. Mello describes the innovations behind measuring the law, testing its effects, and disseminating discoveries. The essay was adapted from Mello's keynote address at the Center's 10th anniversary symposium in September 2019.
Policy is a powerful tool that can improve health and wellbeing by addressing specific risks or impacting social conditions that are drivers of health and quality of life. But governmental policies can vary immensely from one jurisdiction to another. Surveillance of policies at the local level can help facilitate evidence‑based policy adoption between cities, states, and beyond. This essay highlights the CityHealth model, which has successfully influenced policy change by illuminating the quality and quantity of nine key city policies in the forty most populous U.S. metropolitan areas.
Inclusionary zoning laws can serve as a mechanism to provide more housing opportunities by requiring or incentivizing developers to set aside a certain portion of new developments for affordable housing, and are designed to provide more affordable rental and/or owner-occupied housing for low to moderate-income individuals and families. Developers can sometimes meet the requirement by building affordable units off-site or pay into an affordable housing fund. Incentives for developers include expedited permitting, density bonuses, and zoning variances.
The authors describe Five Essential Public Health Law Services and suggest investment in the people, methods and tools needed to move major policy initiatives from conception to widespread implementation. The model reflects a transdisciplinary approach integrating public health legal practice with law-related surveillance, evaluation and enforcement functions usually performed by public health practitioners. As an elaboration of law-related activities within the Ten Essential Public Health Services, the framework can be used to define, evaluate and strengthen public health law functions.
George Washington University, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
This study examined economic and health outcome data from all 50 states between 1999-2010. The researchers find better health outcomes in states that enacted higher tax credits for the poor or higher minimum wage laws and in states without a right-to-work law that limits union power. These policies focus on increasing the incomes of low-income and working-class families, instead of on shaping the resources available to wealthier individuals.