What Gets Measured, Gets Changed

Does law matter regarding public health outcomes? Regardless of what one may think about the answer to this age-old question, in recent years the public health community has increasingly demonstrated and recognized the roles that public health laws and policies play in effectuating long-lasting and broad-based population-wide changes.

Public health laws and policies have been instrumental in the following ways: reducing smoking prevalence; reducing underage alcohol-related drinking, driving, crashes and fatalities; reducing exposure to second-hand smoke; eliminating vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP); increasing seat-belt use and reducing traffic fatalities; reducing dental carries; and reducing access to and consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages sold in schools, and to reductions in caloric intake and overweight. In fact, in a review of the 10 greatest public health achievements in the 20th century, all were influenced by policy change.