The US Capitol Building
A new five-year, $3.89 million project aims to strengthen the ability of decision makers in public health to identify and deploy laws and policies that improve health and health equity.

Researchers from the College of Public Health and the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University Beasley School of Law (CPHLR) are among the recipients of a $3.89 million grant from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

College of Public Health researchers Pricila Mullachery, Recai Yucel, and Lindsay Cloud join collaborators from CPHLR, Stony Brook University, and Drexel University to begin the first part of this two-component, five-year project to strengthen the ability of decision makers in public health to identify and deploy laws and policies that improve health and health equity.

Through this project, “The Collaborative Center for Legal Epidemiology: Evaluating law as an intervention to improve health outcomes and reduce disparities related to HIV, viral hepatitis, STDs, and tuberculosis,” the researchers will build longitudinal legal data and then rigorously evaluate the implementation and effects of the laws, regulations, and other policies.

The second component of the grant has been awarded to the National Network of Public Health Institutes and will focus on providing technical assistance and resources to practitioners based on the work completed in the first component. 

“This grant represents a major investment in necessary and important evaluation of laws and policies, and in the field of legal epidemiology broadly,” said Scott Burris, professor and director of the Center for Public Health Law Research.

With experts from the CDC, the project will identify and examine a broad legal landscape, encompassing state, local, tribal, or territorial level laws related to disparities connected to HIV, viral hepatitis, STDs, and TB. It could include those that: 

  • Reduce poverty (e.g., minimum wage laws), strengthen the safety net (e.g., unemployment insurance and paid family and medical leave) or otherwise addressing structural drivers of disparities (e.g., fair housing laws and inclusionary zoning laws) and inequities in the distribution of health and access to health resources;
  • Affect populations at high exposure risk (e.g., laws regulating syringe service programs or protecting people from stigma and discrimination);
  • Intervene directly to enable STD, HIV, viral hepatitis, and TB prevention and treatment (e.g., screening and treatment of STDs).
  • Create or intervene in syndemic contexts that influence multiple outcomes such as HIV and hepatitis (e.g., laws regulating Medication Assisted Treatment)

Evaluation partners from the Urban Health Collective at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health, led by Alina Schnake-Mahl and Ana Diez Roux, will produce evaluations using natural experiment or rigorous quasi-experimental designs, as well as observational designs for rapid evaluation. They also plan to develop a small number of descriptive studies exploring multi-level social determinants of health predictors (including policies) of disparities in the target outcomes.

Throughout the project, the CDC, Temple, and Drexel teams will work with researchers from Stony Brook University Department of Computer Science, led by Klaus Mueller, to integrate machine learning techniques to reduce bias and increase efficiency and explore the multivariate characteristics of geographies in context of the target outcomes within an interactive dashboard.