Health Equity at the Public Health Law Center

We believe that law and policy are essential tools for improving public health. Laws influence where we live and shape the quality of our physical environments (Is the tap water safe to drink? Are we breathing clean air? Is it safe to walk outside?). Laws can restrict or expand the choices and opportunities available to us (Can we get appealing, nutritious food? Can we get a job that pays a living wage? Do we have safe and affordable housing?).

We also know that law and equity do not necessarily go hand in hand, especially when it comes to the social determinants of health. Too often, laws and policies have caused oppression and inflicted trauma, and have contributed to entrenching and deepening racism and other inequities, instead of eradicating them. We recognize that the Public Health Law Center is located within the traditional homelands of the Dakota people, and that the land we currently occupy comes with a legacy of genocide and trauma caused by U.S. law and policy applied to American Indians.

We are challenging ourselves to hold this complex understanding of law and policy in our minds as we do our work, better maintain a core focus on equity and justice, and become better partners at co-creating1 healthy communities for everyone. If you are interested in learning more about our organization’s evolution, click here.

We don’t see ourselves as experts. As we weave the principles of equity, inclusion, and belonging1 throughout our work, our privileges and biases may affect our success. We invite your perspectives, comments, and suggestions, and we promise that we will continue to invest in our education and training.


Featured resources are below. Other relevant resources in right sidebar (desktop/tablet), or end of page (mobile).

Three children

Focusing on Equity and Inclusion When We Work on Public Health Laws (2018)

This resource offers guidance on how to use the Five Essential Public Health Law Services Framework and other resources to address racism and other social determinants of health in the public health sector.

E-cigarettes and liquid

Regulating Menthol Tobacco Products - Tips & Tools (2018)

An updated guide for state and local advocates to educate themselves on how they can effect change in the sale and consumption of menthol tobacco products in their communities.

Tribal members

Tribal Tax Policies for Commercial Tobacco (2019)

This is a resource for Tribal governments and Tribal public health advocates so that they can realize the public health benefits of increased commercial tobacco taxes and simultaneously protect Tribal sovereignty and cultural practices. Written in partnership with the National Indian Health Board, the National Native Network, and the Michigan Public Health Institute.


1The concepts of co-creating communities and focusing on belonging come from the work of john a. powell. See john a. powell, Building Belonging in a Time of Othering, Other & Belonging Conference 2019 (April 9, 2019),