By Allison G. S. Knox
A large component of the public health discipline is examining the incidence and prevalence of certain diseases or causes of death. Heart attacks and cancer are among the most prevalent causes of death in the United States. So, public health officials use various campaigns in an attempt to reduce their numbers.
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One such campaign calls for providing automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public facilities and to train the public in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). So it’s good news that Connecticut is working to pass a new piece of legislation, Connecticut Senate Bill 110, that will require AEDs in all athletic facilities in the state.
This new legislation tells us a bit about two important concepts in political science: policy diffusion and policy holes that often come to light because of a problem that has occurred in society. For example, this legislation was brought to light when one woman explained how her husband’s life could have been saved if an AED had been available at the Ridgefield, Connecticut, gym facility while he was working out. According to his widow, Suzanne Bellagamba Brennan, “His chances of survival would have been drastically improved while awaiting help from EMS had an AED device and trained staff been on site.”
Legislation and Policy Diffusion
Often policies and laws like this originate in one jurisdiction and then move throughout the country in what political scientists call policy diffusion. Essentially, the phenomenon refers to the notion that once a policy concept is created and passed into law, neighboring states introduce similar pieces of legislation.
Concepts like policy diffusion help to explain how new laws come into being. What’s interesting, however, is that while policy diffusion works well in some cases, it doesn’t mean that all states will follow suit. All 50 states, for example, have laws about AEDs, which likely came to be because of policy diffusion.
Connecticut Finds a Policy Hole
Despite the fact that many states will have similar policies, often problems with the construction of policies emerge after something happens. In Connecticut, for example, after the gym fatality. four years later, another Ridgefield father suffered a near-fatal cardiac event at the same gym. Fortunately, this father survived, “largely because of a trained staff person who immediately came to his aid. This staff member was taking a personal training course of his own accord.”
The proposed legislation would help to close this policy gap and prevent future deaths from occurring. Problems emerging from current policies is a common occurrence, and simply is one of the ways that policies expand and grow with the needs of society.
Connecticut’s proposed Senate Bill 110 is a great example of how new policies are created to close the gaps that we find in society. The legislation will likely pass as there isn’t a lot of controversy associated with it. It will also create more opportunities to teach the greater community about CPR and AEDs and reinforce the importance of both for gym facilities in the state.