This guide first elaborates on why it is so important to investigate how, as well as whether, law is having an effect on health, using safety belt laws as one example. It then uses a second example in greater detail — the health effects of criminal laws regulating HIV exposure through sex — to illustrate how diverse theories of legal effect can be productively used.
UNDERSTANDING HOW LAW INFLUENCES ENVIRONMENTS AND BEHAVIOR
These resources discuss the many mechanisms through which law works to influence public health. Theories and perspectives in this section come from a number of distinct disciplines, including public health, economics, psychology, sociolegal studies and criminology.
The public health perspective highlights many mechanisms through which laws affect economic, social and physical conditions that, in turn, affect population distributions of risky or protective exposures and risky or protective behaviors.
This chapter shows how theory and methods yielding insight into core issues like law and inequality, the politics of law, the workings of legal culture and institutions and their effects, and how this can improve our understanding of how law can diminish or improve public health.
In "Mechanisms of Legal Effect: Perspectives from Criminology," Wesley Jennings and Tom Mieczkowski provide researchers key theories from criminology which explain the influence of criminal law on behavior. Public health law researchers investigating the effects of regulations and sanctions on health behavior can draw on these theories and the research methods and tools criminologists have devised to test them.
Over the past few decades, health economists have made substantial contributions to our understanding of how laws, regulations and other policies can address market failures in order to improve public health. Dr. Chaloupka's monograph provides an introduction to the concepts used by economists in this research.
"Law and Society" is the term for scholarship using a variety of social science methods to study law and legal institutions. The unique contribution of this approach is its focus on meaning-making as a mechanism of legal effect. A foundational assumption is the need to focus on law in action rather than solely on law on the books.
Key law and society concepts, including legal consciousness, law as legality, organizational legalization and organizational politics elaborate how law operates in action through meaning making.
Publication Date: 04/10/2012
As public health and medical breakthroughs of the early 20th century controlled infectious diseases and expanded life expectancy, public health shifted its attention from infectious to chronic disease. This era of public health primarily focused on individual-level risk factors and intervention approaches. Most recently there has been a movement to re-emphasize the importance of fundamental determinants of health and disease, including economic, social and physical conditions.
The other Methods Monographs have introduced a variety of theoretical frameworks and practical tools for studying how laws and legal practices influence behavior, environments and, ultimately, health outcomes in a population. Theoretically grounded research illuminating mechanisms of legal effect has at least three important benefits for public health law research and practice: