1. Home
  2. >
  3. GHF Blog
  4. >
  5. Public health is local:...
« All Blog Entries

Public health is local: How preemption policies can hurt public health

In 2021 Georgians for a Healthy Future launched a project to raise awareness about the health harms of laws that stop, limit, or discourage local policy-making by communities about their health and well-being. . With support from Voices for Healthy Kids, GHF has spread the word that public health is local. 

When state or federal laws limit what laws or policies can be adopted by a local city or county, it’s called “preemption.” Check out our new video about preemption and public health here!  While it’s not always the case, preemption can be a sneaky way to stifle local efforts to build healthier communities. It can strip local officials of their powers to meaningfully govern in the best interest of their constituents.

Why does preemption matter for public health?

Communities in Georgia may want to promote public health with policies like these but preemptions in Georgia law stand in the way:

  • Adding a local sales tax to smoking and vaping products to prevent youth ;
  • Requiring COVID-19 vaccination or proof of negative COVID status before entering public buildings or taking part in public programs;
  • Requiring businesses to provide paid family leave;, and 
  • Raising the minimum wage for local workers.

Public health is crucial to promoting and protecting Georgians’ health and the health of our communities where we live, work, and play. Public health workers, agencies, and laws make it possible to track disease outbreaks, safely drink water from our faucets and eat at restaurants, help community residents learn healthy behaviors, and understand why some of us are more likely to experience poor health than others. It requires in-depth knowledge of the community and the ability to act locally in ways that are tailored to the needs and preferences of the residents. 

When the state or federal government preempts (stops) a community from making these local public health decisions, it can disrupt preparedness for future emergencies, worsen existing health gaps, and slow the spread of new or evidence-based policies. 

For example, it is well documented that  higher smoking and vaping taxes reduce rates of smoking and vaping, especially among young people and people with low-incomes. When local Georgia communities decide they want to prevent the adverse health effects of smoking and vaping among their middle and high school students, they can’t add a local tax to these harmful products. Georgia law hand-cuffs them from using one of the most effective anti-smoking and vaping policies to address their local needs. The inability to address this problem perpetuates higher smoking rates and worse health outcomes for some groups of people (particularly American Indians in Georgia).

Public Health is Local trainings: Savannah and statewide

As part of this project, GHF hosted two Public Health is Local trainings for Georgians. Step Up Savannah and Healthy Savannah co-hosted one of the trainings with  GHF. The event helped coastal Georgians learn more about preemptive policies (including some that are most relevant for that region of the state) and how they can take action to protect the public health of their communities.
You can view the virtual conversation HERE.

Advocacy opportunities

Preemption removes opportunities for effective, local public health action. Instead, state and federal laws should aim to set up frameworks that allow communities who know what will work best for their residents to try new and evidence-based policies.

One of the best ways to prevent state leaders from blocking local policy solutions is to recognize what preemption looks like and to speak up in support of public health in Georgia. Help keep public health local by:

If you are interested in partnering with Georgians for a Healthy Future to strengthen public health in Georgia, please contact Knetta Adkins (kadkins@healthyfuturega.org) for more information.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive updates from GHF!

GHF In The News

Apr 17, 2024
Medicaid expansion gains momentum in holdout states
Erin Durkin

The idea of expanding Medicaid is gaining momentum in the last holdout states, with eyes on Mississippi as the next potential state to take up the policy. As of 2024,…