RWJF Launches $19 Million Public Health Law Research Program

    • March 11, 2009

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced the selection of Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia to manage a new $19 million program called Public Health Law Research. The new program, under the direction of Temple law professor Scott Burris, J.D., will fund research that explores legal and regulatory solutions to pressing health challenges such as infectious and chronic diseases, and health emergencies such as floods, bioterrorism and epidemics.

Burris is an internationally recognized expert on the influence of laws on public health. He published the first law review article detailing the public health law issues raised by AIDS and also led the effort to create the first comprehensive legal analysis of the epidemic. His work has been funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health. He is currently working with the United Nations on policies related to treatment of pain and drug dependency.

“We expect this program to launch a new era of research through the best talent in law and public health. We know that strong policies and laws can help Americans lead healthier lives," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“Laws have dramatically improved the public’s health by influencing individual behavior, such as increasing seatbelt use and requiring immunizations for children. Laws have also protected people from harmful environmental toxins, by regulating exposure to secondhand smoke, lead and asbestos. New threats like bioterrorism, pandemic flu, chronic diseases, hurricanes and breakdowns in food safety will raise legal challenges and potential solutions. We need to understand and anticipate those challenges to protect and promote the public’s health,” according to Burris.

He said research funded through the new program will answer fundamental questions such as: How do laws influence health and health behavior? Which laws have the greatest impact?  Can current laws be made more effective through better implementation or revision?  It will also support efforts to improve scientific methods for studying the impact of laws on health.

The first call for proposals under the new program will be announced early to mid-spring. Universities and other research institutions from around the country will be invited to submit proposals. For more information about the program or to sign-up for announcements about funding opportunities, go to www.publichealthlawresearch.org.