Table 1

Definitions of major methodological approaches to legal epidemiology along with an illustrative global research question, based on the ‘typology of public health law studies’ put forward by Burris et al7

Major methodological approachesIllustrative global research question
Policymaking studies: To identify factors influencing the likelihood that public health laws will be adopted, the nature of laws adopted and the process through which they are adopted.What factors were associated with countries’ decisions to close national borders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Mapping studies: To analyse the state of the law or the legal terrain and the application of laws surrounding a particular public health topic.What dietary guidelines are published by national governments and international agencies around the world, and how do they compare?
Implementation studies: To examine how and to what extent the ‘law on the books’ is implemented and enforced through legal practices.How could an international treaty strengthen the implementation of existing national commitments to ban over-the-counter sales of antibiotics?
Intervention studies: To assess the effect of a legal intervention on health outcomes or mediating factors that influence health outcomes.Did the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control decrease global cigarette consumption?
Mechanism studies: To examine the specific mechanisms through which the law affects environments, behaviours or health outcomes.Do treaties have greater impacts through the incorporation of transparency, complaint, oversight or enforcement mechanisms?