Policy surveillance is the systematic, scientific collection and analysis of laws of public health significance. It is a form of legal mapping that creates data fit for use in rigorous evaluation studies. Policy surveillance addresses the need for readily accessible, nonpartisan information about status and trends in health legislation and policy. It also provides the opportunity to build policy capacity in the public health workforce.

The Policy Surveillance Program at Temple University’s Center for Public Health Law Research (CPHLR) is dedicated to increasing the use of policy surveillance and scientific legal mapping as tools for improving the nation’s health. The program produces and maintains datasets spanning a wide variety of public health topics across several websites, including LawAtlas.org.

LawAtlas.org houses over 100 policy surveillance legal maps that cover more than 20 areas of public health. The site also hosts a comprehensive series of free, self-guided training modules and webinars in its Learning Library. The Learning Library houses policy surveillance research methods developed by CPHLR.

The Library’s eight modules, which include video presentations and downloadable tools and resources, teach the skills and competencies needed to complete policy surveillance and legal mapping projects. The site also hosts monthly webinars on introductory and advanced policy surveillance methods and applications.

Here’s a quick look at the Module topics:

  • Module 1: Introduction to the Policy Surveillance Program, Policy Surveillance and Legal Mapping Techniques
  • Module 2: Defining the Scope of the Project and Conducting Background Research
  • Module 3: Question Development
  • Module 4: Collecting and Building the Law
  • Module 5: Coding the Law
  • Module 6: Quality Control
  • Module 7: Publication and Dissemination
  • Module 8: Tracking and Updating the Law

LawAtlas.org is filled with accessible information and data useful for lawyers and non-lawyers alike, including researchers, policymakers, advocates and others.

Additional CPHLR Websites and Resources

PDAPS.org, the Prescription Drug Abuse Policy System, is a NIDA-funded website that uses policy surveillance to capture characteristics of laws and policies related to prescription drug policy.

CityHealth.org uses policy surveillance conducted by CPHLR staff members and a rating tool powered by MonQcle to rank 40 of the largest U.S. cities across nine policy domains.

The Policy Surveillance Institute, hosted by CPHLR, is a two-day intensive in-person training for introductory and advanced policy surveillance methods. It has been postponed to October 5-6, 2020.

The Center for Public Health Law Research is based out of Temple University Beasley School of Law. It supports the widespread adoption of scientific tools and methods for mapping and evaluating the impact of law on health.