Influencing physician response to prenatal substance exposure through state legislation and work-place policies

by Gail L. Zellman, Peter Jacobson, Robert M. Bell

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Little research attention has focused on ways to encourage physician response to prenatal substance exposure. The authors report initial results from a study examining the impact of state laws and workplace policies on physician response by combining legal analyses and data from a national physician survey. The authors' findings indicate that the message that laws and policies exist usually does not reach physicians. However, when the message does come through, some physician behaviors are influenced. In particular, physicians in states with clearer policies and behavioral expectations are significantly more likely to know and understand the law than physicians in other states. Further, believing that a workplace protocol on prenatal substance exposure exists is associated with significantly increased likelihood of an active response in case vignettes portraying prenatal substance exposure. The findings suggest that state legislative behaviors may increase physician response to prenatal substance exposure, but that response depends on the nature of the policy and on efforts to disseminate it.

Originally published in: Addiction, v. 92, no. 9, 1997, pp. 1123-1131.

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