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Public health law program receives research grant

November 12, 2010

The Public Health Law and Policy Program (PHLPP) at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU has been awarded a $100,000 grant for public health law and policy research and analyses.   

The grant, from the PEW Charitable Trust and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Impact Project, funds PHLPP Director James G. Hodge Jr., the ASU Lincoln Professor of Health Law and Ethics, and his colleagues to conduct a legal review and analyses of statutory, regulatory, and other laws that support or further the performance of Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) in non-health sectors.

According to Hodge, HIAs are used routinely to evaluate public health and health care programs, but they also may focus on health issues for projects and policies that do not intrinsically raise health concerns. For example, in regulatory areas such as transportation, urban planning, agriculture, education and energy, HIAs incorporate public health surveillance, research, and risk analysis to shape policies to reduce population-based harms and improve the public’s health.

“HIAs are used to provide sophisticated assessments of how various government or private sector projects or policy choices affect human health,” noted Hodge, “but less is known about the legal authority authorizing, supporting, or prohibiting HIAs in non-health settings.”

Though this project, ASU’s PHLPP seeks to address how laws and policies at all levels of government in the United States directly authorize, indirectly facilitate, or potentially inhibit the performance and use of HIAs by public or private authorities to guide policy decisions in non-health sectors. Significant legal research will be conducted in 35 select jurisdictions – 20 states, 10 cities and five tribal nations, as well as the federal government -- and is expected to continue through October 2011.  Through this select review, Hodge said, “major legal themes on the actual and potential use of HIAs in the U.S. can be generated and shared nationally to guide future legal reforms concerning HIAs.”

Jane Magruder,
Office of Communications, College of Law