By The Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research
This week, the Center for Public Health Law Research and Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) published the first two of 13 comprehensive datasets on laws that can support cost-savings for states and promote health and well-being. Researchers from Center used the scientific policy surveillance process to create datasets that provide states with detailed information about the current state of U.S. laws.
The first two datasets, covering syringe service programs (SSPs) and tobacco pricing strategies, offer an in-depth look at two harm reduction-focused laws that can also have a positive economic impact in communities.
We spoke with Adam Lustig, MS, the manager of the Promoting Health & Cost Control in States (PHACCS) project at TFAH.
CPHLR: These new datasets are the first two of 13, what other topics are being mapped, and how were these topics chosen?
Adam Lustig: We are incredibly excited for the release of the remaining eleven datasets through the summer of 2020. For a preview of things to come, we anticipate releasing datasets on Smoke-Free policies, Alcohol Pricing Strategies, Complete Streets, Ban the Box, and Earned Income Tax Credit in the first quarter of 2020. Following those datasets, we will publish the remaining datasets on School Nutrition Programs, Earned Sick Leave, Paid Family Leave, Rapid Re-Housing, Universal pre-K, and Housing Rehabilitation Loan and Grant Programs throughout the summer of 2020.
CPHLR: These first two datasets, and one forthcoming on alcohol pricing, focus specifically on harm reduction for substance use. Why are harm reduction strategies integral to cost control?
AL: Harm reduction policies and strategies have been shown to be a proven way to prevent or reduce the costs of diseases and illnesses associated with the use of injectable drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Not only can these policies yield cost savings to states through reduced medical care expenditures, but they can also serve as revenue sources for states, in the case of alcohol and tobacco pricing strategies. One area that we do want to emphasize is that while it may be tempting for state decision makers to use this revenue to support states’ general funds, we want to emphasize the added value of reinvesting these revenues to support comprehensive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use prevention and treatment programs.
CPHLR: The other topic areas are a broad subsection of public health, and go beyond what we’d consider traditional health or health care-focused policies. Why was it important to TFAH to include these “social determinants of health” in its list of policies to track?
AL: We have seen an increasing focus on the social determinants of health, especially as it pertains to hospitals and health systems investing in interventions to address the social needs of their patients. However, there are only a few resources dedicated to identifying and promoting evidence-based policies that can address the social determinants of health through policy change. It is our goal that the PHACCS initiative and the legal datasets developed by CPHLR can make the business case to decision makers and other key stakeholders that there are viable policy levers that can be utilized to improve the underlying conditions of communities across the nation.
CPHLR: How do you hope these datasets will be used (and the ones forthcoming)?
AL: We see the datasets as being a vital resource for state-level policymakers, advocates, and the community at large to gain a better understanding of where these laws exist and how they may differ from one another on a state-by-state basis. With this data in hand, it is our hope that users will be able to identify key components of our thirteen policies that can be enacted, implemented, and improved within their state.
CPHLR: Was there anything that surprised you as you and your team reviewed the data?
AL: We were pleased to see the continued interest and momentum in states adopting syringe service programs across the nation. While progress in the adoption of SSPs and increasing tobacco pricing is being made, we were surprised to see the number of states that preempt localities from enacting innovative solutions to address the needs of their communities. We recognize that preemption is an issue that impacts many of the PHACCS recommended policies and we look forward to continuing to track this information and shining a light on the negative health impacts caused by these preemptive policies.