Evidence Library

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Scott Burris, JD •
Center for Public Health Law Research
Evan Anderson, JD •
Center for Public Health Initiatives, University of Pennsylvania

Legal intervention to influence individual health behavior has increased dramatically since the 1960s. This paper describes the rise of law as a tool of public health, and the scientific research that has assessed and often guided it, with a focus on five major domains: traffic safety, gun violence, tobacco use, reproductive health and obesity. These topical stories illustrate both law’s effectiveness and limitations as a public health tool. They also establish its popularity by the most apt of metrics – the willingness of legislators to enact it.

 

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