Research Round-Up: New Publications from the PHLR SciVal Experts Community

In honor of last week’s National Public Health Week, we have a lot of fresh, new PHLR. The latest crop of papers from public health law researchers touch on a number of important points and issues including transportation safety, implementation, tobacco control, and media presentation of public health law. Check out Scott Burris’s brief summaries after the jump!

Let’s start with a methods piece. One reason crash law has always been at the cutting edge of robust evaluation is the investment in measures. Allison Curry and colleagues take on the highly technical, but crucially important, question of what sort of driver behavior can be inferred from citations in accident cases in their latest study published in Accident Analysis and Prevention. Turns out there is a lot of room for bias, because, for example, fatally-injured drivers are almost never cited, so their dangerous behavior won’t be captured by looking at the ticket.

A second transportation safety study finds that the public generally supported automatic enforcement cameras, so there’s no reason for traffic safety agencies to be shy. Jessica B. Cicchino, Joann K. Wells, and Anne T. McCartt explore pedestrian safety and attitudes toward automated traffic enforcement in Washington, D.C in their recent article in Traffic Injury Prevention. Beyond the topical interest, this is the type of study we need more of. It reminds the media and policy-makers that the public wants action for a safer community.

Finally, we’re seeing even more evidence that GDL laws reduce harm, but also that we have more to learn: this paper by Motao Zhu, et al found an effect on 16 year olds but not 17 and 18.

Implementation was also a focus of two other new papers.  An AJPH paper by Garen Wintemute and colleagues found evidence from local evaluations in California that it is feasible for the criminal justice system to confiscate guns from respondents to domestic violence restraining orders.

A new paper from Leo Beletsky and colleagues also looks at law enforcement, specifically the experiences of injecting drug users with New York police and its influence on their injection behavior. A decade after syringe exchange and syringe possession were deregulated in the state, 10% of users still reported having syringes confiscated in police encounters, with negative effects on their compliance with safe injection advice.  On our methods and measures theme, the authors also make this excellent point:

“Although systematic risk factor and disease surveillance has been established as critical to public health practice, surveillance in the realm of structural determinants of health has not received adequate attention. Given the robust evidence base on the interaction between policing encounters and IDU risk and health outcomes, it is time to consider these “structural” factors worthy of systematic public health surveillance. To our knowledge, this is the first time that items on police encounters were integrated as part of data collection for periodic surveillance among at-risk groups, in the US. Our findings suggest that wider monitoring is meaningful and useful to understand the prevalence of adverse encounters between police and IDU.”

Dana M. Casciotti and colleagues’  ‘Print news coverage of school-based human papillomavirus vaccine mandates’ in the Journal of School Health  describes how the media often plays up autonomy concerns, presumably for effect, while giving short shrift to the things their readers really need to know. The habitual framing of public health interventions in terms of autonomy and paternalism seems to be based more on tradition (or spin) than on a close study of how American’s feel about government health action. People may have complained about seat belts when their use was first required, but there is no groundswell to repeal them today.

Tobacco control is another well-funded area of PHLR.  Our own Michelle Mello recently made a pitch for raising the tobacco purchase age to 21.  She may have something there, given this new study that finds that half of kids in a national survey who tried to buy tobacco were not asked for proof of age.

Two other notable tobacco papers are ‘Effect of smoke-free legislation on perinatal and child health: a systematic review and meta-analysis’ from Been, Jasper V., et al. and ‘Cigarette packaging and health warnings: The impact of plain packaging and message framing on young smokers’ by Darren Mays, et al.

Finally, a shout out to a new member of the PHLR experts community, Stan Lehman of CDC, who put out this mapping study of HIV criminalization in the U.S.: Lehman, J. S., et al. (2014), ‘Prevalence and Public Health Implications of State Laws that Criminalize Potential HIV Exposure in the United States’, AIDS Behav.

Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research

Based at the Temple University Beasley School of Law, the Center for Public Health Law Research supports the widespread adoption of scientific tools and methods for mapping and evaluating the impact of law on health. It works by developing and teaching public health law research and legal epidemiology methods (including legal mapping and policy surveillance); researching laws and policies that improve health, increase access to care, and create or remove barriers to health (e.g., laws or policies that create or remove inequity); and communicating and disseminating evidence to facilitate innovation.

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