Critical Opportunities

Critical Opportunities for Public Health Law gives participants – researchers, lawyers, doctors, public health officers and others – just five minutes to make their pitch for an evidence-based legal remedy to a critical public health problem. PHLR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have compiled this library of big ideas with evidence-based solutions just waiting to be implemented. Guidelines for hosting a session can be found here.

Health reform and the preservation of confidential health care for young adults

In their Critical Opportunities presentation, Ryan Cramer and Lauren Slive suggest strengthening the HIPAA Privacy Rule by adopting the Health Information Technology and Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The HITECH provision allows patients to demand that confidentiality be maintained when services are paid for in full out-of-pocket.

Critical Congenital Heart Defects and Pulse Oximetry

Congenital heart defects cause nearly one-quarter of deaths due to birth defects in infants. Nearly 5,000 babies are born each year with seven specific Critical Congenital Heart Defects or Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). There is a low-cost, non-invasive screening procedure, called pulse oximetry, that is effective in detecting CCHD. By making this screening mandatory, CCHD could be detected early and follow-ups could be done to improve health.

Public Health Accreditation

Legally requiring all public health departments to be accredited would improve their performance and accountability while promoting community collaboration, according to this Critical Opportunities presentation by Georgia Heise, DrPH, Public Health Director of the Three Rivers District Health Department.

Tobacco 21

In this Critical Opportunities presentation Michelle Mello, JD, PhD, makes the case that raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 would aid in reducing minors' tobacco use by 50 percent, which would prevent 10 million people from becoming daily smokers and avoid 3 million premature deaths.

Opioid Overdose Prevention

Prescription drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death. In his Critical Opportunities presentation, Corey Davis, JD, staff attorney at the Network for Public Health Law, suggests that easier access to opioid overdose reversal drugs like naloxone could help prevent overdose deaths.

Graduated Driver's License Decals

New Jersey is the first state in the United States to require novice drivers to put a red reflective decal on their license plate as part of their graduated driver’s license law. The decals signal the young driver’s probationary status to other drivers and law enforcement. A study by Allison Curry, PhD, MPH and her colleagues at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that New Jersey’s law has prevented more than 1,600 crashes and helped police officers enforce regulations unique to new drivers.

Smart Disclosures in lieu of Regulations

“Smart disclosures” are meant to empower consumers to make smart purchasing decisions by providing them with information about products, such as food nutrition labels or automobile fuel economy labels. But Adam Finkel, ScD explains in his Critical Opportunities presentation that these disclosures are often misleading, inaccurate, incomplete or nonexistent. To be valuable tools for consumers, Finkel suggests that smart disclosures would need to be updated and reevaluated for relevance, accuracy and clarity.


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