Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)  |  August 24, 2020

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According to a 2019 report by Woolf and Schoomaker, average life expectancy in the US began to level off in 2010 and then declined from 2014 to 2017. Although life expectancy increased slightly in 2018, concerted actions to address the “cumulative insults to the nation’s health” are warranted, especially considering the increase in mortality in 2020 due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Among many potential solutions, “legal determinants of health,” namely how law can address underlying causes of premature mortality, merit examination and consideration. Cost-effective evidence-based laws can safeguard the public’s health, reduce disparities, and extend life expectancy across socioeconomic groups, especially in disproportionately affected regions of the US. Despite their promise, public health laws are underutilized.

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