Join the Legal Epidemiology Learning Cohort!

Advance your health department or organization’s ability to track & measure public health laws & policies

Applications for the 2023-2024 cohort are now closed.

Health departments and organizations are invited to participate in our 10-month Legal Epidemiology Learning Cohort, to gain foundational skills in public health law research and evaluation.

Supported by the Public Health Law Program (PHLP) within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support and by ChangeLab Solutions, the learning cohort is designed to enable any health department or organization to build its capacity to carry out legal epidemiology projects, even with minimal previous experience or skills.

To get started:

What is legal epidemiology?

Legal epidemiology is a scientific approach to tracking laws and policies of public health importance and studying their impact and effectiveness. Legal epidemiology can answer questions such as the following:

  • Why does life expectancy in two neighboring counties differ?
  • How does raising the minimum wage affect health?
  • Which cities and counties have adopted paid sick leave policies, and how do you assess whether variations in those policies across jurisdictions have led to different health outcomes?

Learn more about the study and uses of legal epidemiology.

How can health departments and organizations benefit from legal epidemiology?

More than ever, state, tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) health departments and organizations are looking for ways to equitably respond to emergencies and meet the needs of people who face discrimination, social exclusion, poverty, disenfranchisement, and unequal opportunities for education, jobs, and housing — all factors that can negatively affect health. Laws and policies have been central to creating and perpetuating today’s unjust health disparities, but they also can — and should — be used to drive positive change.

Legal epidemiology is one tool that health departments and organizations can use to learn and communicate about the critical relationship between law and health. Participants in the Legal Epidemiology Learning Cohort will gain foundational skills in legal research and evaluation. These skills will allow them to systematically identify legal and policy solutions to public health problems and generate evidence of the law or policy’s impact and effectiveness, working in collaboration with community members and partners from other agencies and institutions. In the long run, building internal workforce capacity to conduct legal epidemiology projects can help fulfill practical needs. For example, legal epidemiology projects can inform regulatory changes, strategic planning efforts, or policy agendas.

What is the Legal Epidemiology Learning Cohort?

The Legal Epidemiology Learning Cohort is a 10-month learning opportunity in which participants will learn the skills to design and implement their own legal epidemiology projects. They will also provide feedback on legal epidemiology tools and resources that will be disseminated widely to other health departments and organizations after the learning cohort is complete. The cohort is scheduled to begin in January 2023, but the date may be adjusted, depending on participants’ capacity due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

What skills will participants learn?

Throughout the 10-month learning cohort, participants will learn new skills:


  • How to center community members in the legal epidemiology research process, from topic selection to data collection, evaluation, and dissemination
  • How to build a transdisciplinary legal epidemiology research team


  • How to communicate legal epidemiology research findings to decision makers, community partners, public health practitioners, and others, to support goals such as policy changes

Research and Analysis

  • How to articulate and refine questions that can be answered through legal epidemiology
  • How to develop a logic model that centers health equity and guides legal epidemiology research
  • How to draft a background memorandum that explores the policy landscape affecting a legal epidemiology research topic, surveys existing research, and uplifts health equity implications
  • How to navigate federal, state, and local codes; agency websites; and other resources to find and read laws and policies that affect the social determinants of health
  • How to systematically code key features of laws and policies being studied, conduct quality control, and finalize a legal epidemiology dataset
  • How to find or develop relevant public health outcome data that can be used to evaluate how laws and policies affect health or health-related socioeconomic factors

Where can I find examples of projects by past participants?

The learning cohort is designed to meet participants where they are. Individual projects can be tailored and scaled depending on participants’ goals, capacity, and resources, so the final work products created by participants vary. Take a look at what previous cohort participants have done:

For a firsthand account of the learning cohort experience and examples of how public health practitioners have applied their legal epidemiology skills, read our blog post profiling three previous cohort teams.

What types of support and opportunities will participants receive?

  • Opportunity to participate in a series of online trainings and discussions with peers from around the country, all of which are intended to provide an in-depth, skills-based orientation to legal epidemiology
  • A workbook to direct self-study and help participants apply the concepts covered in the online learning and discussion series
  • Opportunities to present at national conferences or otherwise share learnings with the field
  • One-on-one technical assistance from CDC staff on legal epidemiology best practices
  • Access to CDC’s Public Health Law Information Portal, a database for storing and analyzing research results
  • Opportunity to beta test all learning materials and provide feedback on all related trainings, tools, and resources, to inform the development of future products for other public health entities
  • Opportunity to demonstrate national leadership in legal epidemiology by receiving a certificate of completion and, depending on your interest, the chance to be highlighted in CDC’s Public Health Law News or on ChangeLab Solutions’ website
  • Funding to cover some costs associated with participating in the cohort
  • Additional travel funds to meet in person to share findings and feedback and to learn from others in the cohort (depending on COVID-19 travel restrictions; virtual meetings can be arranged)

What funding is available for participants?

Through a partnership with CDC, ChangeLab Solutions is pleased to offer approximately $20,000 to public health agencies or organizations that participate in the learning cohort. The final amount of funding will depend on the number of health departments and organizations selected to participate. While these funds will help to offset the costs of participating in the learning cohort, they likely will not cover all expenses associated with participation.

What types of agencies and organizations can participate?

The learning cohort is geared toward teams from STLT health departments. We will also consider teams from health organizations such as community-based organizations, nonprofits, trade groups, university-based research centers and institutes, and others. Health organizations like these are encouraged to partner with a health department on their legal epidemiology project, although such a partnership is not required. For more information on what kinds of health agencies and organizations can participate, please email

Submit an interest form to be considered for participation!

To be considered for participation, please complete an online interest form. We will review interest forms on a rolling basis.

We have provided a downloadable PDF of the interest form to help you prepare your answers. We also recommend that you watch the recording of our virtual information session and read our Q&A summary.

Deadline: Please submit an interest form by 11:59pm PST on December 1, 2022, to be considered for participation in the 20232024 learning cohort.

For groups that are not selected to participate, we will keep their interest forms on file for potential consideration for future cohorts.

If you have questions about the cohort or selection process, please contact us at

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the timeline for participation?

A rough timeline for participation in the 2023–2024 Legal Epidemiology Learning Cohort is below. The final timeline is subject to CDC funding approvals. In addition, dates may be adjusted, depending on participants’ capacity and resource constraints due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Fall 2022: Submit interest form; complete introductory call with PHLP and/or ChangeLab Solutions staff
  • December 2022: Finalize selection of participants
  • January 2023: Complete introductory trainings on public health law as needed; meet virtually with PHLP staff for guidance on topic scoping and building a project team
  • February 2023November 2023: Attend monthly peer learning sessions and technical assistance calls with PHLP and ChangeLab Solutions staff; complete monthly homework assignments designed to move your legal epidemiology project forward. Most peer learning sessions will take place virtually; however, up to two sessions may take place in person, depending on COVID-19 travel restrictions and provided that additional funding is available for travel costs (airfare, lodging, meals, and incidentals).
  • December 2023March 2024: Finalize and submit legal epidemiology work products and complete final surveys and/or interviews to share feedback on the curriculum and learning materials. (Final work products can vary according to participants’ goals, capacity, and resources.)

Whom should be included on a legal epidemiology project team?

The learning cohort curriculum is designed to enable any health department or organization to build its capacity to find, read, track, and analyze laws and policies to assess their health impacts. The composition of legal epidemiology project teams can vary widely; however, teams typically involve people with diverse expertise, including lawyers, public health practitioners, researchers, evaluators, and policy experts. Teams may also include economists, statisticians, communications experts, academics, and social scientists, among others. Although the size of a successful team will vary according to the project scope, at a minimum, legal epidemiology research teams typically include three people: two researchers and one project supervisor.

For team composition, we suggest prioritizing, when possible, inclusion of members with the following skill sets and experience:

  • At least two team members with legal research experience, including familiarity with finding and interpreting statutes, ordinances, and regulations. Having a lawyer on the team is not required to participate; however, having access to someone with legal expertise (e.g., city, county, or agency counsel; law professor; legal intern from a local law school) who can consult for the duration of the project is strongly encouraged.
  • Additional team members who can design and conduct quantitative and qualitative research and who understand the ins and outs of the public health and legal systems. Having team members with quantitative or qualitative research expertise is not required to participate; however, having access to someone with these skills (e.g., health department evaluator or data analyst; partner from a local university or research institution) who can consult for the duration of the project is strongly encouraged.
  • Other subject-matter experts and community partners with lived experience related to the research topic who can consult for the duration of the project

PHLP and/or ChangeLab Solutions staff would be happy to provide feedback and guidance on building a transdisciplinary project team, including strategies to promote equity when selecting team members. If you have questions about whom to include on your project team, please email

What is the estimated monthly time commitment for participating teams?

All core team members will be required to participate in monthly peer learning sessions and separate technical assistance calls with PHLP and/or ChangeLab Solutions staff. Monthly peer learning sessions are typically 12 hours; however, longer meetings may be scheduled for our kickoff and final sessions. Technical assistance calls are typically 1 hour.

Outside of the peer learning sessions and technical assistance calls, participating teams will be expected to complete homework assignments designed to move their legal epidemiology projects forward. The number of staffing hours required for a legal epidemiology project depends on several variables related to the overall scope and complexity of your research. If your health department or organization has a defined or limited number of hours for this project, then you may need to tailor your project scope accordingly, to ensure that you can complete the research.

PHLP and/or ChangeLab Solutions staff would be happy to provide guidance on estimating the staff hours necessary for a proposed legal epidemiology project. If you have any questions about this topic, please email

How are Legal Epidemiology Learning Cohort participants selected?

ChangeLab Solutions is working closely with CDC to select jurisdictions. All health departments and organizations that agree to participate must satisfy the following criteria, which will inform the selection process:

  • Completion of an interest form and introductory phone call with PHLP and/or ChangeLab Solutions staff
  • Demonstrated interest and commitment from staff and leaders to conduct a legal epidemiology project and provide feedback on trainings and other assistance aimed at building workforce capacity to use legal and policy tools to improve population health
  • Ability to engage with ChangeLab Solutions on a consultant basis, pursuant to a mutually agreed-upon services contract that complies with federal contracting requirements. The contract will outline participants’ agreement to beta test all learning materials and provide feedback on all related trainings, tools, and resources, to inform the development of future products for other public health entities.
  • Ability to execute a timely services contract
  • Submission of a letter from health department or organizational leaders in support of the project, documenting the jurisdiction’s commitment to provide its services and expertise for the duration of the project and accounting for any factors that might limit a jurisdiction’s ability to fully participate in the project (e.g., staffing levels, anticipated budgetary restrictions, upcoming projects, and deadlines)
  • Ability to travel for up to two in-person meetings, depending on COVID-19 travel restrictions and provided that additional funding is available for travel costs (airfare, lodging, meals, and incidentals)
  • Ability to participate in all mandatory trainings (approximately nine trainings over 10 months)
  • Ability to leverage technical assistance or other support from subject-matter experts as necessary to design and implement a legal epidemiology project
  • Identification of specific topics or areas of interest that the health agency or organization is interested in researching and that can be readily observed in the law. (PHLP and/or ChangeLab Solutions staff would be happy to provide feedback and guidance on appropriate topics to teams that are considering participating in the upcoming cohort.)
  • Identification of dedicated staff to complete the project, including sufficient staff time and access to subject-matter expertise (e.g., attorney, policy experts). The number of staff needed to complete a project will vary according to the scope and complexity of the research.

Where can I find more background information on legal epidemiology?

PHL Academy’s Legal Epidemiology Resource Center

The PHL Academy’s Legal Epidemiology Resource Center collects resources for those who are building new skills and competencies in legal epidemiology. These resources are intended to supplement the Public Health Law Academy's free online training series on legal epidemiology. Resources have been curated for researchers, educators, students, and practitioners in health departments. Users can see what’s relevant to their sector or explore them all.

The Legal Epidemiology Competency Model Version 1.0  
Competencies are the knowledge and skills that workers need to perform their work well — a set of statements that workers and employers can use to define their accomplishments and work goals. A competency model is a list of competencies, organized into groupings or domains, which describes the range of skills needed for satisfactory to exceptional employee performance. Some government agencies refer to these as ‘core competencies.’

“The goal of the Legal Epidemiology Competency Model . . . is to offer guidelines for minimum competencies in legal epidemiology, including research and translation knowledge and skills required of public health practitioners, lawyers, and policy experts working in state, tribal, local, or territorial health departments.” (internal citations omitted)

Policy Surveillance Program and

The Policy Surveillance Program of the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University uses a scientific method known as policy surveillance to conduct legal mapping, which is a process that shows how policies have changed over time and how they vary across jurisdictions or institutions. Legal mapping is one aspect of legal epidemiology. The Policy Surveillance Program’s Learning Library contains eight training sessions that teach skills and competencies needed to complete policy surveillance and legal mapping projects. In addition, the following policy surveillance datasets that participants in previous legal epidemiology cohorts have created are published on Law Atlas:

Where can I find more information about PHLP and ChangeLab Solutions?

CDC’s Public Health Law Program

PHLP works to improve the health of the public by developing law-related tools and providing legal technical assistance to public health practitioners and policymakers in STLT jurisdictions.

PHLP works with STLT public health departments and other partners to

  • Identify public health law priorities;
  • Research laws that affect the public’s health;
  • Analyze public health legal preparedness;
  • Conduct comparative analyses across jurisdictions;
  • Prepare guidance, articles, reports, and toolkits; and
  • Develop and disseminate public health law curricula. 

ChangeLab Solutions

ChangeLab Solutions is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses the tools of law and policy to advance health equity. We partner with communities across the nation to improve health and opportunity by changing harmful laws, policies, and systems. Our interdisciplinary team works with public health lawyers; state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments; other government agencies; community organizations; and local institutions to design and implement equitable and practical policy solutions to complex health challenges.