Local public health policymakers’ views on state preemption: Results of a national survey, 2018

Lainie Rutkow, Meghan D. McGinty, Sarah Wetter, Jon S. Vernick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. To learn about local health policymakers’ experiences and responses to preemption—the ability of a higher level of government to limit policy activity at a lower level. Methods. Between March and June 2018, we conducted an anonymous Web-based survey of mayors and health officials in US cities with populations of 150 000 or more. We used descriptive statistics to analyze multiple-choice responses. We analyzed open text responses qualitatively. Results. Survey response rates were 28% (mayors) and 32% (health officials). Nearly all respondents found preemption to be an obstacle to local policymaking. When faced with preemption, 72% of health officials and 60% of mayors abandoned or delayed local policymaking efforts. Conclusions. Preemption is viewed as an impediment across a range of public health issues and may stifle local policy activity (i.e., have a chilling effect). Those working at the local level should consider the potential for preemption whenever seeking to address public health concerns in their communities. Public Health Implications. Local governments should engage with advocates, practitioners, and public health lawyers to learn about successful and failed efforts to meet public health objectives when faced with preemption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1107-1110
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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