Diane Robinson Recipient of PHLR Funding for Dissertation Study

Researchers will investigate the law’s impact on traffic accidents and wellness of several vulnerable populations through Strategic and Targeted Research Program

Philadelphia, March 20, 2013 – Projects investigating the impacts of law on traffic accidents, and the health and wellness of HIV-positive patients, people with mental illness, and children will be supported through dissertation grants provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Public Health Law Research (PHLR) program as part of its new Strategic and Targeted Research Program (STRP).

The dissertation grants will support students in accredited doctoral degree programs whose research interests require the use of public health law research methods.

Students were asked to submit proposals for qualitative or quantitative studies of the health effects of specific laws or regulations and/or related underlying mechanisms of effect, or mapping studies that creates a multi-jurisdictional dataset of laws suitable for quantitative research.

PHLR’s aim is to promote the effective use of law to improve public health. Established in 2009, the program has now funded more than 70 studies and several reviews of existing scientific evidence on major public health challenges. STRP is its newest initiative. The STRP funding mechanism invited policy-makers, practitioners, researchers, and other public health law stakeholders to identify areas they felt lacked an evidence-base.

“Through this dissertation grant program, we are aiming to support the upcoming generation of public health law researchers, encouraging their use of PHLR methods and interaction with a broader network of public health law researchers,” said Scott Burris, professor of law at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he also directs the Center for Health Policy, Law, and Practice and the Public Health Law Research program.

The grantees will have access to technical assistance from PHLR’s network of content and methodological experts, and will have the opportunity to share their research progress and network at the PHLR 2014 Annual Meeting.

Public Health Law Research (PHLR) is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with direction and technical assistance by Temple University. The program is dedicated to building the evidence base for laws that improve public health. PHLR funds research, improves research methods, and makes evidence more accessible to policy-makers, the media, and the public. For more information about PHLR, visit

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and healthcare issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and healthcare of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful, and timely change. For 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and healthcare of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. Follow the Foundation on Twitter ( or Facebook (


Behavioral Economics, Courts, and Child Welfare
Diane Robinson, University of Arkansas
12 months / $19,764

Behavioral economics is a strong lens through which to study the child welfare system and child maltreatment, both in how the parents, attorneys, caseworkers, and judges involved in the child welfare system make decisions and in how those decisions affect children’s outcomes and future prospects. The proposed study will address three main questions: Do actions compliant with statutory time frames and court performance measures decrease the amount of time children spend in foster care? What factors correlate with permanency outcomes of children in foster care, and do actions compliant with statutory time frames and court performance measures improve outcomes? How do the child welfare and court processes affect children’s educational outcomes, including GPA, graduation and performance on norm- and criterion-referenced exams? The PI will use a variety of quantitative methods including survival analysis to examine the length of time in the court system, ordered logic to consider the legally-defined outcomes of child welfare cases. Data for this project were obtained for the time period of FY2010-2012. This will be the first use for research of a new database for juvenile courts in Arkansas.