Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to Fund UK Public Health Study

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 27, 2011) − The University of Kentucky College of Public Health is among 13 new grantees sharing $3 million in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Public Health Law Research (PHLR) program.

The UK study will investigate the association between state laws that set the structure of local public health and the health status of local populations. Some states have very centralized public health systems, while others give a great deal of authority to local public health agencies. Kentucky's structure is a hybrid, with some independent agencies and others that work closely with the state. Julia Field Costich, associate professor and chair of the Department of Health Services Management is the principal investigator of the study and Dana Patton, assistant professor in the department is co-investigator.

"If we find that some legal structures for local public health lower the impact of harmful factors, we will have evidence to support better public health system design," Costich said.

PHLR's aim is to promote effective regulatory, legal and policy solutions to improve public health. Since its inception, the program has funded fourteen studies and several reviews of existing scientific evidence on several major public health challenges. PHLR is funded by RWJF as a part of its public health strategy aimed at ensuring that all Americans have quality public health services and policies that protect, promote and preserve their health, regardless of who they are or where they live.

"The results of these studies are helping us building the evidence that policy-makers can use to understand how laws and regulations affect public health - not just laws aimed at specific public health issues," said Michelle Larkin, director of the public health team at RWJF. "Zoning laws, for example, affect opportunities for physical activity and access to healthy foods through farmers' markets and grocery stores, which ultimately affect obesity rates."