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Improving the Nation's Health

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports a new Public Health Law Research program at Temple.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) selected Temple’s Beasley School of Law to manage a new multimillion-dollar program called Public Health Law Research. RWJF is the largest philanthropic organization devoted exclusively to improving health and healthcare in the United States. Through its funding, advances
in research and policies improve the nation’s approach to health in myriad ways.

The Public Health Law Research program will
support interdisciplinary research exploring legal
and regulatory solutions to pressing health challenges, such as infectious and chronic diseases, and health

Professor of Law Scott Burris
Professor of Law Scott Burris
emergencies including floods, bioterrorism and epidemics. Funding from the program will help establish Temple as a research leader in this emerging field.

The program will be directed by Scott Burris, a professor of law at Temple and co-director of the university’s Center for Health Policy, Law and Practice. “The law can be a powerful tool for improving public health,” says Burris, who notes the roles laws have had in reducing smoking and increasing the use of seat belts. “The Public Health Law Research program brings long-needed funding and attention to the crucial role of law in public health.”

He believes RWJF’s investment is important because only good research can determine what laws will be successful for public health. “This is a golden opportunity to give policymakers and health advocates the information they need
to pursue healthy policies,” he says. “Our job at Temple will be to do everything we can to make sure the evidence our researchers produce gets to the people who need it.”

Burris is an internationally recognized expert on the influence of laws on public health and is a pioneer in the use of empirical research in the discipline. He published the first law review article detailing the public health law issues raised by AIDS. He also led the effort to create the first comprehensive legal analysis of the epidemic. His work has been funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

“We expect this program to launch a new era of research through the best talent in law and public health,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of RWJF. “We know that strong policies and laws can help Americans lead healthier lives.”