Cardiovascular diseases are major contributors to death, disability, disparities, and reduced quality of life in the United States. Successful prevention and control of these diseases requires a comprehensive approach applied across multiple public health settings and in all life stages. Individual lifestyle and behavior change, as well as the broader social, environmental, and policy changes that enable healthy lifestyles, are necessary. Legal strategies can be powerful tools in this endeavor. This review presents seven such strategies applicable at the federal, state, and local levels that can be employed by healthcare providers, public health practitioners, legislators, and other policymakers. They include direct regulation, economic incentives and disincentives, indirect regulation through private enforcement, government as information provider, government as direct provider of services, government as employer and landlord, and laws directed at other levels of government. These strategies may be accomplished through legislation or administrative changes in practices or procedures. Effective use of these strategies requires a broader understanding of the advantages and limitations of legal frameworks and the importance of tailoring strategies to local conditions and resources. Examples of key roles that health professionals can play in advancing such an understanding are presented.

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Co-authors: George A. Mensah, Richmond A. Goodman, Anthony D. Moulton