Excerpted From: Dawn Pepin, Public Health Equity Law: Considering Law as a Tool in Achieving Health Equity, 70 DePaul Law Review 1 (Fall, 2020) (47 Footnotes) (Full Document)
Health equity is achieved when each person attains their “highest level of health ...” However, recent research published in the Journal of the AmericanMedical Association (JAMA) by Frederick Zimmerman and Nathaniel Anderson, found that although there have been some promising developments, there has been an overall lack of improvement in health equity over the last twenty-five years. In response, as Samantha Bent Weber highlights “[p]ublic health departments and practitioners are expanding the scope of their responsibilities by considering the systemic and structural arrangements that constitute root causes of inequities.” Consequently, considering interventions beyond the scope of traditional health care and public health practice may be important.
Policy Development, including creating and utilizing laws and regulations, is considered one of the pillars of the 10 Essential Public Health Services and is recognized as an important tool in achieving better health outcomes. equity and healthdisparities are recognized as important within the fields of public health and health care. However, the role of law as it relates to health equity is still an area of growing research in the field of public health. This Essay will describe one way to analyze the role that law can play in achieving equitable health outcomes.
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Ultimately, this Essay presents one way to begin thinking about health equity law including how law may be utilized in achieving equitable health outcomes. In their article, Zimmerman and Anderson indicate that “improving health equity will require greater effort from public health policy makers, along with their partners in medicine and the sectors that contribute to the social determinants of health.” Continued research around the implications of the legal mechanisms on equitable health outcomes may help to encourage a comprehensive and cross-sectoral perspective in seeking to advance evidence-informed policy making surrounding health equity.
Dawn Pepin, JD, MPH, Public Health Policy Analyst, Policy Research, Analysis, and Development Office, Office of the Associate Director for Policy and Strategy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).