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The importance of legal epidemiology in public health law research has undoubtedly grown over the last five years. Scholars and practitioners together have developed guidance on best practices for the field, including: placing emphasis on transdisciplinary collaborations; creating valid, reliable, and repeatable research; and publishing timely products for use in decision-making and change. Despite the energy and expertise researchers have brought to this important work, they name significant challenges in marshalling the diverse skill sets, quality controls, and funding to implement legal epidemiology activities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has worked to develop cross-cutting research and translation on issues of national priority in legal epidemiology, and has explored ways to overcome some of these challenges. As such, this article describes a case study of the use of law to characterize states' prior authorization policies regarding medication used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a central component of a broader effort to improve behavior therapy options for young children with ADHD. This article highlights the types of legal epidemiology work we have undertaken, the application of this work to an emerging public health problem, and the lessons learned in creating impactful research for the field.
For decades, health information has been collected and shared for health care delivery and public health purposes. While the “primary use” of patient data for providing direct health care services is the cornerstone of health care practice, health departments rely on data sharing for research and analysis to support disease prevention and health promotion in the population. As the U.S. health system undergoes a digital revolution, health information that was previously captured in paper form now can be captured electronically. Electronic health information (EHI) has transformed the efficiency, capacity, and functions of the U.S. health system. For this reason, there is increased attention to the “secondary use” of electronic patient data for public health uses, including disease reporting and investigation, syndromic surveillance, and patient-specific or population-level communications about health conditions and their associated risk factors. Secondary uses may also encompass clinical research, licensure, and payment for services.
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