Laws and policies are essential to environmental health issues. Legal epidemiology is an emerging field that blends the practice of developing and implementing health laws with the scientific evaluation of how laws can affect health. Legal epidemiology is defined as: The scientific study of law as a factor in the cause, distribution and prevention of disease and injury.
Legal epidemiological research can cover a wide variety of environmental health law topics such as:
- Laws limiting exposures to disease-causing substances
- Laws that regulate the use and disposal of harmful chemicals and materials
- Laws creating parks and other community spaces
- Laws establishing new frameworks like Health in All Policies (HiAP)
Local environmental health professionals, in particular, should be aware of legal epidemiological tools because it is harder for them to look across jurisdictions for best practices, due to lack of current information on law and policy. Using legal epidemiology can help with these barriers. Local environmental health professionals who conduct surveillance on their own laws and policies can use that information for evaluation and future program planning.
Webinar Series: An Introduction to Legal Epidemiology
NEHA, in collaboration with CDC's Public Health Law Program, is hosting a 3-part webinar series that examines the use of legal epidemiology to address environmental health. The first webinar will serve as an introduction to legal epidemiology and a discussion of the relationship between environmental health and policy. The second webinar will serve as legal epidemiology training for environmental health practitioners. The third webinar will offer a primer on the Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach and demonstrate how legal epidemiology can be used as a tool in tracking the growth of HiAP laws, policies and programs across the country and identifying current trends.