All posts tagged: public health

Graphic of a globe with interconnected bubbles with cartoons of various people and practitioners to exemplify World Health Day

A Decade of Public Health Legal Education

Law is the primary social tool used to influence behaviors and environments — for “generalizing or scaling up practices judged collectively beneficial, forestalling negative behavior, and setting powers, duties, and limitations on public and private entities.” As researchers, policymakers, advocates and others seek to better understand how and why legal interventions make a difference to the public’s health, public health legal education stands as a crucial component in the capacity building necessary for rigorous and rapid evaluation of these legal interventions that “treat” millions of people. That evaluation — called public health law research, or legal epidemiology research — supports evidence-based policy- and decision-making that can advance health, improve well-being, and increase equity not only in the United States, but around the world. For nearly 12 years, the Center for Public Health Law Research at the Beasley School of Law has been dedicated to that capacity building through our work developing research methods for legal epidemiology, like policy surveillance (which is the systematic, scientific tracking of laws of public health significance); funding research projects with …

Reflections on AIDS Awareness Month and the Case for Public Health Law Research

As we observe AIDS Awareness month this December, we find ourselves looking back on the most challenging year from a public health perspective in at least a century. The current pandemic places all of us at the direct crossroads of public policy and public health in a daily reality unrivaled in most of our previous experience. Thinking about the impact of school and business closures, restrictions on gatherings and travel, mask mandates, and how to distribute vaccines highlight just a few of the law and policy responses we now interact with to keep ourselves and each other safe. As we pause each year to recognize those living with HIV, and remember those lost to AIDS, the condition caused by the virus, we must also remember that we suffer many of those losses, especially the early ones, because of the original failures of the public health response to the HIV epidemic. These failures included but are not limited to a minimization of the government’s role in public health response and related delays to address the spread …

Public Health Consequences of Islamophobia

Donald Trump has built his presidential campaign on demonizing immigrant and religious minorities without regard for the damage he instills. At Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate it was more of the same. In the wake of Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, there have been a record number of threats, harassment and vandalism to mosques, as well as attacks on individuals perceived to be Muslim. Muslim-Americans report feeling fearful, and anxious for themselves and their families. It is a difficult time for law-abiding Muslims in America. Two decades of public health scholarship confirms that this type of hatred directed at one group of people, along with the harassment, discrimination and segregation that follow, has a pernicious impact on health. Hatred stigmatizes and marginalizes its targets, limits access to life’s opportunities and reduces the freedom to freely partake in life’s enjoyments. It can incite threats and violence and internalized self-hatred. The constant stress of being targeted risks cardiovascular disease, hypertension, anxiety and depression.  As the nation aspires to achieve health equity, the impact of Trump’s disparaging divisive rhetoric will …

Jail Cell

A Vaccine Against the Epidemic of Mass Imprisonment

A powerful group of United States senators unveiled a bill last month designed to reform federal criminal sentencing laws. If passed, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 will begin to address some of the most troubling areas of federal criminal sentencing – the cause, many experts say, of exponential growth in the federal prison population. The bill would reduce mandatory life sentences without parole for some drug offenses, allow parole for people sentenced to life for crimes they committed when juveniles and expand the number of inmates over 60 years old who can seek compassionate release from prison. It provides judges with greater discretion at sentencing for some drug crimes and allows for retroactive application of the 2010 federal law that reduced the unfair disparity in sentence lengths between crack and powder cocaine. The bill is particularly noteworthy for its bipartisan support, which includes Sen. Charles Grassley. The Judiciary Committee chairman has been a staunch supporter of harsh punishments, including mandatory minimum sentences, reflecting a hopeful trend that the uniquely American experience of …