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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Elizabeth Emerson

Elizabeth Emerson is co-investigator of the Health Spectrum Program and the Smoke-Free International Program. She received the Humanitari...

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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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Teh-wei Hu

Teh-wei Hu, PhD, is director of PHI's Center for International Tobacco Control. Hu's areas of expertise are the application of econometrics...

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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 for chronic disease and obesity as well as the director of PHI's California Project LEAN. She works to e...

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Meenakshi Subbaraman

Meenakshi Sabina Subbaraman, PhD, is an associate scientist and postdoctoral fellow at PHI's Alcohol Research Group. Her primary research inter...

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Jessica Tomlinson

Jessica Tomlinson, JD, is the PHI project director for the award-winning Healthdata+ initiative that helps organizations combine data, strategy and...

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Elaine Zahnd

Elaine Zahnd, PhD, is a sociologist and senior research scientist at PHI. Zahnd has conducted health policy-related research and evaluations for ov...

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California Center for Research on Women and Families

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

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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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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

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. 

Project LEAN Survey Spurs Legislation to Ban Junk Food in Schools

A survey from PHI's California Project LEAN stunned the public when it disclosed that 95% of high schools that responded were selling fast food from restaurants like McDonald's and Domino's Pizza as a la carte items.

The "2000 California High School Fast Food Survey" and the media campaign that accompanied it drew widespread news coverage and galvanized the movement to improve school nutrition. Most important, it contributed to the passage of legislation that today bans the sale of junk food and soda in California schools.