Public Health Law Summit 2017 – Western Region Summary

The Network for Public Health Law is a national initiative founded in 2010 with 5 regional offices funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that seeks to provide legal technical assistance to attorneys and public health practitioners across the nation. The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University’s Public Health Law and Policy Program hosts the Western Region Office of the Network.

On March 24, 2017, the Western Region Office hosted a one-day Public Health Law Summit in Sacramento, California in conjunction with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The Summit brought together 180 public health and legal experts from western states and beyond to examine and discuss some of today’s most critical challenges in public health law and policy. Summit registrants represented 11 states, and included representatives from the federal, state, and local governments, and a wide range of educational backgrounds including JDs, MPHs, MDs, and PhDs. The Summit provided an excellent opportunity for public health practitioners to learn from one another and to share local innovations with those from other jurisdictions.

The Summit kicked off with a welcome from the national director of the Network and the director of CDPH, followed by a plenary session on national public health law trends presented by ASU Public Health Law and Policy Professor, James G. Hodge, Jr. CDPH’s Deputy Director and Chief Counsel, Karin Schwartz chaired a session on public health constitutional powers, which focused on ongoing litigation challenging recent public health interventions in California including removal of personal belief exemptions for school immunization requirements and San Francisco’s Sugar Sweetened Beverage (SSB) Warning Label Ordinance. Kim Weidenaar and Lexi White, fellows with the Public Health Law and Policy Program, led a session on using tax policy to accomplish public health goals, focusing on SSB taxation. Leila Barraza, a consultant with the Western Region, chaired a session focusing on public health challenges among the homeless.

Summit sessions included:

  • National Trends in Public Health Law
  • Regulation of Medical and Recreational Marijuana
  • Public Health Implications of Immigration Discrimination
  • Legal Issues Arising from Health Facility Failures/Closures
  • Using Taxation Policy to Accomplish Public Health Goals
  • Public Health Powers and Constitutional Practices
  • Public Health Data and Privacy Issues: Data Sharing, De-Identification, and More
  • Mental Health/Wellness: Behavior Issues and Public Health Legal Implications
  • Confronting Public Health Challenges Among the Homeless and Other Vulnerable Communities
  • Emergency Powers and Legal Preparedness

At the summit, the Western Region created and furthered relationships with dozens of attendees and looks forward to providing legal technical assistance to these partners as public health issues arise. Based on the success of this Summit, the Western Region anticipates continued collaborations with CDPH and other attendees, as well as hosting similar future events.

Through the Western Region Office of the Network, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation graciously funded the Summit, which was provided at no cost to attendees. CDPH kindly provided space, staffed the event, and offered free California CLE credit to attorneys in the state.

This document was prepared by Kim Weidenaar, JD, Deputy Director, Network for Public Health Law – Western Region, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, ASU. Photos were provided by David Turnball, JD, and Lexi White, JD, PhD Candidate.

The Network for Public Health Law is a national initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Network provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided in this document do not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, please consult specific legal counsel.