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Am J Public Health. 2012 Jun;102(6):1067-78. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300454. Epub 2012 Apr 19.

The status of legal authority for injury prevention practice in state health departments.

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National Coordinating Center of the Network for Public Health Law, Public Health Law Center, William Mitchell College of Law, St Paul, MN 55105, USA.


Despite the potential for public health strategies to decrease the substantial burden of injuries, injury prevention infrastructure in state health departments is underdeveloped. We sought to describe the legal support for injury prevention activities at state health departments. We searched the Lexis database for state laws providing authority for those activities, and categorized the scope of those laws. Only 10 states have authority that covers the full scope of injury prevention practice; in the others, legal authority is piecemeal, nonspecific, or nonexistent. More comprehensive legal authority could help health departments access data for surveillance, work with partners, address sensitive issues, and garner funding. Efforts should be undertaken to enhance legal support for injury prevention activities across the country.

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