Excess sugar consumption is linked to obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related chronic diseases that have tremendous social and economic costs. The United States currently faces the highest obesity and diabetes prevalence in human history. This national health crisis disproportionately impacts historically marginalized communities and thus perpetuates health inequities. Reducing population-level consumption of sugar is one of the most promising strategies for addressing these pressing public health, social, and economic concerns.
Poor diet, exacerbated by food insecurity, is now the leading cause of death and disease in the United States. Individuals with low incomes and those dealing with food insecurity can be especially at risk for poor nutrition, due to additional factors associated with inadequate household resources as well as under-resourced communities. Food is Medicine services such as medically tailored meals, medically tailored groceries, and produce prescription programs have become increasingly powerful and cost -effective interventions to prevent and treat diet-related chronic conditions, improve household food security, and address health disparities. Although research has illustrated that these services are associated with improved health, lower health care costs, and decreased health care utilization, fragmented integration of Food is Medicine interventions into our health care system at the state and federal levels has led to inequitable access based on an individual’s geography, insurance status, health care provider, and condition.
Poverty has long been a major risk factor for poor health, but unconditional cash transfer interventions, commonly known as Guaranteed Income programs, are emerging as an innovative solution. Momentum and interest in Guaranteed Income programs has accelerated around the world in recent years as they have been increasingly implemented to improve health outcomes, economic mobility, safety, and community well-being. As calls for Guaranteed Income grow stronger, so too does the evidence base supporting the connection between resource access and health outcomes.
Across the globe, climate change is increasing the frequency and impact of extreme weather events that can cause displacement, loss of resources, illness, and death. At the same time, growth in population, along with activities like manufacturing and industrial farming, means that individuals and communities are challenged by exposure to both manmade and naturally occurring harmful substances with serious health implications. The burden of both of these threats is often disproportionately borne by those with the fewest resources.
The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School’s (CHLPI) Health Law and Policy Clinic (HLPC) is working with other national organizations and community partners to identify and promote COVID-19-related policy flexibilities that should have a permanent place in the health care landscape, and to minimize harm to individuals as various pandemic-era policies unwind.
Health care providers, payers, and policymakers are increasingly coming to recognize that health relies on more than a visit to the doctor’s office. Emerging community-clinical partnership models allow the U.S. health care system to respond more directly to the ways that our homes, food, environment, and daily lives impact health. However, these models raise new questions regarding how health care laws and policies apply to partnerships between the health care and social sectors.
From birth control and HIV/STI prevention to abortion and holistic pregnancy care, comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care is foundational to health and well-being. Law is a tool to expand access, dismantle barriers, and address disparities through innovative models of care. Many states are improving reproductive and sexual health care through enabling, for example, the delivery of medication abortion, HIV prevention, and other services via telemedicine. Law can also, however, be deployed in ways that drive inequity and marginalization—through outright bans on services, insurance coverage limitations, and other restrictions.