Funded on December 15, 2018

Local governments are often on the forefront of enacting innovative public health policy, and local control over public health issues is especially vital to address social inequities. Pre-emption removes the ability of local governments to enact these laws and may hinder public health policy adoption and diffusion within a state and across the country.

Although pre-emption is increasingly being used as a policy tool, it is unclear whether states are pre-empting local control over four policy domains—tobacco control, firearm safety, paid sick days, and food and nutrition policy—while simultaneously not enacting state-level laws. Nor has there been research into which states are more likely to pass pre-emption and which populations are most affected by state pre-emption of public health policies.

The research team will address the following five critical knowledge gaps:

  1. Are states pre-empting evidence-based policies related to tobacco control, firearm safety, paid sick days, and food and nutrition policies?
  2. Are states that pre-empt evidence-based policies simultaneously enacting evidence-based policies or, alternatively, not acting while pre-empting the ability of communities to enact evidence-based policies?
  3. Which legislative policy strategies are being used by states to pass pre-emptive laws on these public health topics?
  4. Which population and state-level characteristics are associated with state pre-emption of public health policies within and across states?

The findings will provide policymakers, researchers, advocates, and public health practitioners with new insights and practical tools to assess the true implications of pre-emption on evidence-based public health policy enactment and diffusion.

Related Evidence

  • Published June 10, 2020

    Local governments are often innovators of public health policymaking, and local control over public health issues that are vital to addressing social inequities. But states are increasingly preempting, or prohibiting, local control over public health issues. In a new paper, Jennifer Pomeranz and Diana Silver of the New York University School of Global Public Health, systematically identified strategies to pass, obscure, or enhance preemption in five policy areas.

    View Evidence

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