Earlier this year, the Geographic Health Equity Alliance invited Natasha Phelps from the Public Health Law Center to present at CADCA’s annual National Leadership Forum. Natasha’s presentation, “Effective Law & Policy:  Incorporating equity at every stage,” addresses the need for equity in policymaking to ensure it is effective. We are delighted to share the recording from this unique and informative session with you, along with Natasha’s new introduction to the video below:

Law and Policy

Law and policy are essential tools for improving public health and addressing the social determinants of health. Laws, in the form of statutes or codes, ordinances and administrative or agency rules, are a particularly potent type of policy because they have the power of government behind them. Laws are also powerful because they reflect, shape and reinforce social norms. The people choosing which laws/policies to work on, the language of the law/policy itself, the effect of violating the law/policy, education around the law/policy and the evaluation of the law/policy have a profound effect on society.

The law is a key force for equity and health equity. In the United States, law and equity have not historically gone hand in hand, as evidenced by the prevalence of social, environmental and economic disparities. There are many reasons for the disconnect. This is especially true when it comes to laws and policies relating to commercial tobacco use, other substance misuse and addiction.

Throughout the history of public health policy, communities, partners and advocates have worked to identify unintended consequences of and gaps in laws and policy that contribute to the social determinants of health. Natasha Phelps’ presentation addresses the need and blueprint to identify, incorporate and maintain equity in all stages of public health law and policy work so that it is effective. Viewers will understand why advancing public health means advancing health equity.

This presentation specifically incorporates examples of commercial tobacco policy, including language, penalties and exemptions. It addresses the observable and improvable plans, services, partnership building and action items required for health agencies/systems, governments and communities to develop and enforce laws that can improve public health.  This means incorporating equity at every stage.

The Public Health Law Center is a dynamic, public interest affiliate of Mitchell Hamline School of Law. The center collaborates with others to reduce and eliminate commercial tobacco, promote healthy food, support physical activity and address other causes of chronic disease. Their mission is “Health through the power of law and policy.”