Scientific strength is crucial to the field of legal epidemiology in several ways. Better research makes the field more attractive to new entrants, facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration, increases the chances the major health research funders will support investigation of law, and enhances the credibility of research results for informing policy.
DESIGNING PUBLIC HEALTH LAW EVALUATIONS
The most important determinant of the quality of a public health law evaluation is the research design. The resources in this section outline the use of randomized experiments, natural experiments, cost-benefit analyses, and qualitative research strategies for the investigation of public health laws.
The randomized clinical trial (RCT) research design has transformed medical research and is now accepted as the most reliable method for measuring the effects of drugs and other specific medical interventions. In this monograph the authors describe how randomized trials can be used to evaluate broader issues related to public health laws and policies.
Qualitative research helps form our understanding of relationships between law, legal practices and public health. Because of its inductive nature, qualitative research generates insight into previously unstudied (or understudied) mechanisms of legal effect. Its various methods and strategies help uncover ways in which laws have effects that lie outside existing theories and models, and for which standardized quantitative measures do not exist.