Public health professionals are trained to protect people’s health — from controlling the spread of infectious disease to ensuring that water, air, and food are safe. But more and more, policymakers are using preemption to strip public health officials of their powers, preventing them from protecting people and communities. Preemption occurs when a higher level of government (such as a state legislature) restricts the authority of a lower level of government (such as a city council).
Preemption doesn't have to be harmful; we can use it as a tool to promote health equity. In a new piece in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health Blog, Sarah de Guia, CEO of ChangeLab Solutions, and Monica Hobbs Vinluan, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, lay out five steps to counteracting destructive preemption practices:
- Make public health visible — to the public and policymakers.
- Teach public health law to public health students.
- Center equity in public health solutions.
- Increase funding for public health.
- Incentivize the workforce.