Publication Title: 
New England Journal of Medicine
Publication Date: 
Thursday, May 27, 2021

In this commentary for the New England Journal of Medicine, Scott Burris, Evan Anderson, and Alexander Wagenaar draw attention to the chronic underfunding and neglect of legal epidemiology, which is essential to bolstering the use of law and policy as an intervention to improve health. The authors call for the scale-up of the infrastructure for at least three kinds of research: study of the mechanisms, effects, side effects and implementation of laws designed to influence health, such as COVID control measures; research on how the legal infrastructure of the U.S. health system — the allocation of powers and duties, as well as limits on authority — influences the effectiveness of the system; and perhaps most important for addressing health equity, studies of how laws that may appear to have no health purposes — such as  the tax code, minimum wage, and labor rules — shape the social determinants of health.