RWJF launches $19 million public health law research program

March 11, 2009

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation today announced the selection of Temple University's James E. Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia to manage a new $19 million program called Public Health Law Research. The new program, under the direction of Temple law professor Scott Burris, J.D., will fund research that explores legal and regulatory solutions to pressing health challenges such as infectious and chronic diseases, and health emergencies such as floods, bioterrorism and epidemics.

Burris is an internationally recognized expert on the influence of laws on public health. He published the first law review article detailing the public health law issues raised by AIDS and also led the effort to create the first comprehensive legal analysis of the epidemic. His work has been funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health. He is currently working with the United Nations on policies related to treatment of pain and drug dependency.

"We expect this program to launch a new era of research through the best talent in law and public health. We know that strong policies and laws can help Americans lead healthier lives," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"Laws have dramatically improved the public's health by influencing individual behavior, such as increasing seatbelt use and requiring immunizations for children. Laws have also protected people from harmful environmental toxins, by regulating exposure to second hand smoke, lead and asbestos. New threats like bio-terrorism, pandemic flu, chronic diseases, hurricanes and breakdowns in food safety will raise legal challenges and potential solutions. We need to understand and anticipate those challenges to protect and promote the public's health," according to Burris.

He said research funded through the new program will answer fundamental questions such as: How do laws influence health and health behavior? Which laws have the greatest impact? Can current laws be made more effective through better implementation or revision? It will also support efforts to improve scientific methods for studying the impact of laws on health.
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The first call for proposals under the new program will be announced early to mid spring. Universities and other research institutions from around the country will be invited to submit proposals. For more information about the program or to sign-up for announcements about funding opportunities, go to www.publichealthlawresearch.org.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.

Founded in 1895, Temple University Beasley School of Law offers a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, combined J.D/M.B.A. degree, and a variety of Masters of Law (LL.M.) degrees. Located in Philadelphia, the law school also has study abroad opportunities in Rome and Tokyo. Faculty comprised of distinguished attorneys and scholars incorporate an innovative blend of academic and practical applications of legal study into rigorous classroom experiences. In 1999, after being selected by the Chinese Ministry of Justice, Temple Law created China's first foreign LL.M. program for Chinese attorneys. The Temple Center for Health Policy, Law and Practice examines critical legal issues in public health and healthcare through interdisciplinary research projects, courses and problem-solving partnerships with academics and community leaders both locally and internationally.

Burness

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