Making the Case for Laws that Improve Health

A Framework for Public Health Law Research

Public health law has received considerable attention in recent years and has become an essential field in public health. Public health law research, however, has received less attention.

This article explores public health law research, defined as the scientific study of the relation of law and legal practices to population health. The article offers a logic model of public health law research and a typology of approaches to studying the effects of law on public health. Research on the content and prevalence of public health laws, processes of adopting and implementing laws, and the mechanisms through which law affects health outcomes can use methods drawn from epidemiology, economics, sociology and other disciplines. The maturation of public health law research as a field depends on methodological rigor, adequate research funding, access to appropriate data sources, and policy-makers’ use of research findings.

Public health law research is a young field but holds great promise for supporting evidence-based policy-making that will improve population health.