Investigating the impact of the legal infrastructure of local public health systems on population health outcomes

The Foundation's program, Public Health Law Research: Making the Case for Laws That Improve Health, was designed to build the evidence for public health law and policy, translate research findings into practical tools to increase the support for and use of law by policy makers and public health practitioners, and to translate findings to other fields and venues to improve and protect health.This study will investigate a fundamental question in public health law: Does the legal infrastructure of local public health affect population health outcomes? The hypothesis is that the legal infrastructure of local public health, as expressed in the exercise of local fiscal and legislative authority, affects local population health outcomes. This hypothesis will be tested by combining original legal research with findings from three prior RWJF-funded projects that address the scope of local public health law, the types of local public health delivery systems, and local funding authority for public health. A regression model will be utilized that includes control variables to test the relationship between identified varieties of local public health legal infrastructure and population health status. Because states shape the legal infrastructure of local public health through power-sharing arrangements, associations with population health status may support recommendations for state legislation that positions local public health systems for optimal impact. Because this study will focus on longstanding statutory infrastructure rather than recently enacted ordinances or targeted regulatory initiatives, the findings should support recommendations for best practices addressing the broad legal foundations for public health improvement. Findings from this study will further understanding of the contribution of public health law to community health outcomes by identifying the association between well established legal structures and levels of population health. Deliverables include: at least one paper; presentation of findings at two academic conferences; dissemination of research findings to state policy makers through collaboration with Council of State Governments (CSG); presentation of research findings at appropriate CSG conference venues; and development of a Web-based online data set.

Grant Details

Amount Awarded $149,998.00

Awarded on: 10/28/2010

Time frame: 11/15/2010 - 5/14/2012

Grant Number: 68395


University of Kentucky College of Public Health

121 Washington Avenue
Lexington, 40536-0200


Julia Field Costich
Project Director


Dana Patton
Project Director