Turning great ideas into healthier communities

Issue Areas

Law & Policy

The Public Health Institute believes in the power of laws and policies to improve public health outcomes by changing community environments to better promote and support health and wellness. Changing policies and practices at a school or preschool, in a local business or workplace, or in your neighborhood, town, state, and country can create palpable and lasting change. 

As part of our commitment to discovering the best public health solutions, PHI experts work to understand the immediate and long-term impacts from changes in local, state, and federal policies—and use this knowledge to advance health and wellness initiatives across the world. 

Our expertise includes:

  • Community-based policy development: PHI can help you connect with impacted residents, local business owners, and on-the-ground organizations to develop community-driven legislation to improve health outcomes.
  • Policy proposal and formulation: PHI experts are also available to draft and provide input on potential public health policies.
  • Policy analysis: Work with PHI to better understand the health impacts of enacted policies at the local, state, national or global level.
  • Evaluation of policy efforts: Our experts can help to design evaluation metrics and assess the efficacy of current or proposed public health programs and policy. We are available to evaluate public health programs and policies for environmental and systems change in tobacco, nutrition, physical activity, reproductive health, and more.


Resources and Tools

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Thomas Greenfield

Tom Greenfield is scientific director of PHI's Alcohol Research Group (ARG). He also directs ARG's National Alcohol Research Center, which ...

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William Kerr

William C. Kerr, PhD, is a senior scientist at the Alcohol Research Group (ARG). Since joining ARG in 2001, Kerr has pursued research in the ar...

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Lynn Silver

Lynn Silver is a senior advisor at PHI. She works to enhance and strengthen PHI's portfolio of programs in chronic diseases, regulation of mari...

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Meenakshi Subbaraman

Meenakshi Sabina Subbaraman, PhD, is a Biostatistician and Co-Director of Statistical and Data Services at PHI's Alcohol Research Group. Her pr...

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Mei Wa Kwong

Mei Wa Kwong has over a decade of experience in state and federal policy work. She is currently the Executive Director for the Center for Connected...

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California Center for Research on Women and Families
(PHI program 2000-2016)

The California Center for Research on Women and Families (CCRWF), established in November 2000, was the sponsor of the California Working Families ...

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Center for Connected Health Policy

The Center for Connected Health Policy develops and advances telehealth policy solutions that promote improvements in health and health care system...

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Dialogue4Health (D4H), a project of PHI, is a community that conceives, builds and shares strategies to improve the public's health. D4H p...

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Public Health Data Solutions

Data is the foundation of sound decision making, especially when tackling complex health issues. Organizations have literally hundreds of thousands...

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Rise Up

PHI’s Rise Up activates women and girls to transform their lives, families, and communities through investment in local solutions, strengthen...

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Here's How We're Making a Difference

Evaluating the Berkeley Soda Tax

When Berkeley, CA became the first city in the U.S. to pass a significant excise tax on sugary drinks in 2014, PHI was hired to evaluate its impact. Lynn Silver, PHI’s senior advisor on chronic disease and former assistant health commissioner in New York City, worked with PHI’s Survey Research Group and the University of North Carolina to evaluate the tax’s impact on consumption patterns and prices. Their results showed that the $0.01 per ounce soda tax is working as intended: the fee was passed on to the retail price of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) in large and small chain supermarkets and gas stations. View the preliminary findings

In 2017, PHI and the University of North Carolina completed a second evaluation of the tax. Published in PLOS Medicine, the largest-to-date evaluation looked at the first 12 months of the tax's implementation, and showed a 9.6% drop in sugar-sweetened beverage purchases. Meanwhile, the sales of untaxed healthier beverages rose significantly, by 3.5%—and sales of water rose by 15.6%. The study found no negative impact on store revenue or consumer grocery bills, and the tax helped the city raise $1,416,973 for nutrition and obesity prevention activities in schools, childcare and other community settings. Read the study

An additional PHI analysis found that a year and a half after passage of the tax, food sector sales tax revenue rose by 15% in the city, and 469 new food sector jobs were created—an increase of 7.2%. Learn more.

Guiding Cannabis Policies that Protect Youth & Health

As cannabis legalization swept the nation, PHI’s Getting It Right from the Start provided national leadership and guidance on policy implementation, with the goal of reducing harms, and addressing youth and problem use.

In 2019, California adopted program recommendations including age and ID verification on delivery; stronger exclusions on products attractive to children or resembling certain common foods; and maintenance of child-resistant packaging requirements. Getting it Right from the Start was also formally appointed to the Prop 64 Advisory Group—helping to monitor emerging trends in youth substance abuse, make recommendations on substance abuse prevention, and review the granting of cannabis funds deposited in the Youth Education Prevention, Early Intervention, and Treatment Account. And in Illinois, new laws included recommendations made by the program such as equity licenses; automatic expungement of possession convictions; a ban on health and therapeutic claims; and restrictions on advertising near youth sensitive locations.

The program also guided municipalities and governments in nine states and Canada in 2019—and thanks to their technical assistance, 82 cities and counties across the United States adopted limits on the number of cannabis dispensaries in their locality, and 52 adopted some form of cannabis business signage or advertising restrictions.

Improving Air Quality Across California

Climate change worsens air quality, yet many climate strategies reduce other air pollutants as well. In California, PHI has assessed the health impact of proposed cap and trade regulations and been an active voice for health equity in the implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act. 

PHI’s Regional Asthma Management and Prevention program helped pass California diesel emissions regulations that are projected to prevent 150,000 cases of asthma, 12,000 cases of acute bronchitis and 9,400 premature deaths over 15 years.