Moving from Intersection to Integration

An innovative framework bolsters lagging public health law research. Although conventional wisdom acknowledges the centrality of public health law to the public health system, researchers have neglected the topic. Public Health Law Research (PHLR) and Public Health Systems and Services Research (PHSSR) can supply new theory and research into the function of public health law.

From the pages of the Milbank Quarterly, this article provides a framework for using PHLR and PHSSR through common research methods. The authors include their causal diagram of the legal mechanisms that act on public health agency and system performance.

Key Findings:

  • PHLR draws on economic, sociological, epidemiological, historical and psychological scholarship; PHLR crates three categories of public health law: interventional, incidental, and infrastructural.
  • There are six categories of PHSSR investigation, including organization and structure of public health agencies and access to services for defined populations.
  • In the public health context, two variables, legal and structural capacity, mediate the exercise of legal authority.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has nurtured both PHLR and PHSSR. This article introduces a theory of the intersection of PHLR and PHSSR; the authors pose three crucial questions about the statutory, operational, and systemic characteristics of the public health system as they relate to public health law.