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Public Health Law: Developing the Conference to Support Law in Practice

In October 2012, the Network for Public Health Law held its first conference which discussed high-priority practical issues, ranging from building effective interactions between attorneys and public health workers to implications of the Affordable Care Act.

In October 2012, the Network for Public Health Law held its first conference which discussed high-priority practical issues, ranging from building effective interactions between attorneys and public health workers to implications of the Affordable Care Act.

November 27, 2012

Increasingly today, law is being used as a tool to enhance the public’s health. Historically, public health law has dramatically improved food safety, health care access, the environment, and chronic disease rates. What is new in the field now is a sense that all public health professionals—not just a select few—should be equipped to use public health law in their work.

In October 2012, the Network for Public Health Law held its first conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The planning committee chose high-priority practical issues, ranging from building effective interactions between attorneys and public health workers to implications of the Affordable Care Act. Major funding for the conference was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with additional support from the de Beaumont Foundation, The California Endowment and the HealthCare Georgia Foundation. Conference presentations and materials can be accessed on the Network's website.

“We wanted to attract a practice audience, and we got a good representation of state and local practitioners and their lawyers,” said Dan Stier, Director of the Network for Public Health Law-National Coordinating Center. “Our objective is to be practical. We put a heavy emphasis on the practice side of law.”

Preliminary data and anecdotal responses indicate that the conference was a very successful event and well received by the diverse group of attendees.

NWCPHP is currently working on a full evaluation of the conference, which will help guide its future direction, for example by identifying which topics are most compelling to participants.

Even though the conference went well, Stier says the planning committee won’t be resting on their laurels for the next conference, currently slated for 2014.

“We will try to make this one bigger and better,” said Stier. “When we kick off the planning process, we’ll clearly use the evaluation results as input.”

As planners look to the future, they will make assistance to local and tribal departments a priority, in order to allow their participation. For the 2012 conference, scholarships that covered travel, lodging, and registration fees made it possible for some participants from local and tribal departments to attend. Conference planners hope to continue the scholarships and leverage connections made during the 2012 event.

Whatever changes planners make from the lessons they learned in 2012, Stier emphasizes one critical point: “The focus of the conference will continue to be on practice. That’s what we’re here to do.”

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