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Understanding Preemption

Preemption basics & why preemption matters for health equity

Fact Sheet
Good Governance

The legal term preemption may be little known outside of courts and legislative chambers. But what it describes — the invalidation of state law by federal law, or of local law by state or federal law — has profound significance for public health and health equity.

Preemption affects everything from traditional areas of public health regulation such as the sale of tobacco products, alcohol, and sugary drinks to interventions targeting social determinants of health such as economic security, structural discrimination, and access to safe, stable, and affordable housing. In short, preemption affects almost everything public health professionals, advocates, and other health equity and social justice stakeholders do.

ChangeLab Solutions has developed a series of resources on preemption. The following fact sheets are good places to start for public health advocates who want to understand the basics of preemption and why it matters for health equity.

  • Fundamentals of Preemption explains the legal concept of preemption and how different types of preemption operate in states and local communities.
  • Consequences of Preemption for Public Health & Equity helps policymakers and advocates consider how preemptive policies affect health equity.

Interested in learning more? See our collection of preemption resources for more in-depth information.