Social Science, Equal Justice, and Public Health Policy: Lessons from Los Angeles – Journal of Public Health PolicyPosted: February 17th, 2009
Robert Garcia, The City Project, Los Angeles, CA, USA, and Chad Fenwick, Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles, CA, USA, have published an article on Social Science, Equal Justice, and Public Health Policy: Lessons from Los Angeles, in the Journal of Public Health Policy (2009) 30, S26–S32.
The article is a case study on using research and law to change public health policy. The City Project working with teachers, parents, and school officials is engaged in a strategic campaign with four major elements. First, the teachers’ union – United Teachers of Los Angeles – organized a public campaign to support physical education. Second, The City Project attorneys filed an administrative complaint on behalf of parents, youth groups, and health advocates under civil rights and education laws to require the school district to enforce physical education requirements. Third, in response to the campaign and complaint, the Board of Education of the Los Angeles Unified School District unanimously adopted a resolution to enforce physical education laws. Fourth, the teachers, attorneys, and school officials are now working on an implementation plan to enforce the physical education laws and resolution, and resolve the complaint.
The article concludes:
“Failure to enforce physical education laws is a common practice by school districts in California and across the nation. Evidence-based research documents racial, ethnic and income disparities in physical education and health. Civil rights laws can be combined with that evidence to require school districts to enforce physical education requirements to improve the health and quality of life for students. The experience in Los Angeles illustrates how research and law are used to improve physical education through the process of campaign, complaint, resolution, and implementation plan now being carried out.
“This case study provides lessons for others. Social scientists and attorneys need to collaborate to connect the dots between physical education, human health, racial and ethnic disparities, and civil rights and education laws. Foundations should fund analyses of evidence by legal practitioners, including social science research and disparities in physical education and health based on race, ethnicity, and income. Abstract policy reports and tool kits are not enough. Foundations should fund not only policy and legal advocacy outside the courts, but also litigation in the courts. Access to justice through the courts can be a profoundly democratic means of engaging, educating, and empowering people of color and low-income people to achieve concrete improvements in their lives.
“Different alternatives may be available elsewhere, but a strategic campaign including coalition building, multidisciplinary research, media, policy and legal advocacy outside the courts, and litigation is likely to be a replicable model in other states or countries.”
The full article is available online from the Journal of Public Health Policy.