Public Health Law Research Program Funds 12 New Studies

    • January 15, 2013

Philadelphia, Pa.—The public health effects of laws on issues such as food safety, bullying, distracted driving, and alcohol control laws will be investigated through 12 new research projects funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Public Health Law Research (PHLR) program.

The grants announced today total nearly $2.5 million and will support short-term and time-sensitive studies on specific laws or regulations, long-term evaluations of laws and regulations, and the development of legal datasets. 

PHLR’s aim is to promote the effective use of law to improve public health. Established in 2009, the program has now funded 60 studies and several reviews of existing scientific evidence on major public health challenges.

Research studies already funded by PHLR are aimed at answering important questions: Are local lead laws the key to reaching children who remain at risk of lead poisoning? Do state regulations matter in electronic device use and distracted driving fatalities? And do laws mandating reporting of concussions by high school athletes make a difference in health outcomes?

“With each new set of studies, PHLR works to further expand the body of evidence that helps policy-makers make informed decisions that positively impact the health of their communities,” said PHLR Director Scott Burris.

“Much of the evidence produced by our grantees answers specific policy questions, but PHLR is also funding studies that create legal datasets. These datasets will be available for researchers to study the public health effects of different legal and policy approaches used by states or cities. Such studies will help lawmakers understand how changes in laws and policies affect public health. The datasets already underway will also help train researchers to create their own legal datasets, and improve research methods,” according to Burris.

Burris is Professor of Law at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he also directs the Center for Health Policy, Law and Practice.

See the summaries for more details on the latest round of research projects funded by PHLR.

Media Contact:

Christine Clayton | RWJF | | (609) 627-5937
Bethany Swanson | Public Health Law Research | | (215) 204-2134


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. Follow the Foundation on Twitter ( or Facebook (