Coded Statutory Data Sets for Evaluation of Public Health Law

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background and objectives: The evaluation of public health law requires reliable accounts of underlying statutes and regulations. States often enact public health-related statutes with nonuniform provisions, and variation in the structure of state legal codes can foster inaccuracy in evaluating the impact of specific categories of law. The optimal format for empirical analysis is a machine-readable 50-state coded data set. This study provides a comprehensive assessment of these resources and related materials with a focus on statutory data sets. Research design: An exhaustive literature search was followed by a "pearling" or "snowball" approach to assure the most complete inventory of this very diverse and diffuse information. We also interviewed three leading investigators to identify barriers to wider use and availability of coded legal data sets. Results: We identified relatively few accessible coded statutory data sets, and others that are not available for use outside the group or individual that compiled them. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Public Health Law Research Program has made funding available for the development and dissemination of additional data sets, as well as extensive guidance regarding their use in the evaluation of public health law. Investigators reported serious obstacles to these activities in the past. Conclusions: Compilation of coded statutory data sets requires a focused investment of resources that has only recently become available. Funders should require grantees to make their work accessible to other investigators so as to assure development of public health law research and evaluation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-237
Number of pages18
JournalEvaluation Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The author received financial support for this research from the Public Health Law Research National Program Office, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


  • methodological development
  • physical health care and policy
  • qualitative methodology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences


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