Objective: Law powerfully influences health and can be a critical tool for promoting population well-being. Evaluation research is needed to measure the health effects of law and guide policy making and implementation. The purpose of this study was to assess trends in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for scientific public health law research (PHLR).
Methods: Using data from the UberResearch NIH grant repository, we collected and coded all grants with a focus on health law between FY'85 and FY'14 and then analyzed the grants by funding agency and topic areas.
Results: Between FY'85 and FY'14, NIH funded 510 research grants on health policy making, the health effects of laws or enforcement practices. On average, 4 PHLR grants were funded annually with a median total funding of $545 956 (range: $2535-$44 052 300) and a median annual funding of $205 223 (range: $2535-$7 019 517).
Conclusions: National Institutes of Health has supported important PHLR but not nearly to the extent necessary to ensure that public health laws affecting the population are evaluated in a rigorous and timely manner. In addition to greater funding evaluation research, NIH can increase its support for creating legal datasets, fund training in PHLR, and work with the National Library of Medicine to create Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms related to PHLR.
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