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Government Policies Effect on Health Outcomes

April 13, 2022
Men's hand arranging wood blocks with healthcare medicine icons

Jose Fernandez, PhD, studies the effect of government policies on population health outcomes. Recently, he has studied the effect of medical marijuana policies on opioid-related hospital admissions. Uncontrolled access to marijuana through home cultivation provisions or legal recreational marijuana is associated with an increase in opioid-related hospitalizations. However, no association is found for medical marijuana obtained through dispensaries. This research would suggest that communities who would like to increase access to medical marijuana should do so through the use of dispensaries, not home cultivation. 

Prof. Fernandez is also working on two projects about suicide. The first study examines the spillover effects of Pill Mill legislation, which limits access to pain medication, on the state suicide rate. The results show that pill mill legislation is associated with reductions in the suicide rate by 4%, the female suicide rate by 8.7%, the suicide rate among Whites by 4.2%, and the drug-related suicide rate by 14%. 

The second study asks if coroners and medical examiners determine suicide differently. Medical examiners are trained professionals who are appointed. Coroners are not necessarily medically educated and are elected. When we compare the two types of examiners coroners under-report the number of suicide deaths by 8.6 to 16 percent.