Public health law
Law is an important public health tool that plays a critical role in reducing illness and premature death. Public health law examines the authority of the government at various jurisdictional levels to improve the health of the general population within societal limits and norms.
Public health law focuses on legal issues in public health practice and on the public health effects of legal practice. Public health law typically has three major areas of practice: police power, disease and injury prevention, and the law of populations.
These areas perpetuate are employed by governmental agencies. Bioterrorism is a growing focus of this practice area in some jurisdictions; for example, public health lawyers in the United States have worked in the creation of the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act and the Model State Public Health Act.
Disease and injury prevention
This broader area of public health law applies legal tools to public health problems associated with disease and injury. Practitioners apply legislation, regulation, litigation (private enforcement), and international law to public health problems using the law as an instrument of public health. Litigation against tobacco companies in the United States provides an excellent example.
Law of populations
Population-based legal analysis is the theoretical foundation of public health law. The law of populations is a relatively new theoretical framework in jurisprudence that seeks to analyze legal problems using the tools of epidemiology. Population-based legal analysis can be applied to traditional public health problems but also has application in environmental law, zoning, evidence, and complex tort.
Public Health Law Research
In 2010, a Public Health Law Research (PHLR) program at Temple University in the US was founded to promote effective regulatory, legal and policy solutions to improve public health. It is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Lawyers have long proclaimed the maxim that “the health of the people is the supreme law,”(Salus populi suprema lex esto) but in practice, making law work for public health is a constant challenge. PHLR provides the evidentiary foundation for these efforts. Through policymaking studies, PHLR identifies forces that shape public health policy and strategies for effecting policy change. Through mapping studies, it illuminates what has been done, and thus, what kind of action it is possible for various government units to take. Through implementation studies, it provides information about how best to ensure that “law on the books” becomes effective “law on the streets”. Through intervention studies, it determines which legal approaches are most efficacious in improving health environments, behaviors, and outcomes, and identify harmful legal side effects. Finally, through mechanism studies, it tells us why laws have the effects they do, and what mechanisms are at our disposal for improving the effectiveness of legal interventions.
The Network for Public Health Law
The Network for Public Health Law  is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide free legal technical assistance in the field of public health law. The Network for Public Health Law consists of five regional centers that serve all 50 states in the U.S. as well as its territories. The Network's primary audiences include local, tribal, state and federal officials; lawyers; policy-makers; and public health advocates, though anyone may ask for their assistance. Some of the topics on which they provide assistance include food safety, health care reform, and tobacco control. In addition to delivering technical assistance, the Network provides legal resources, builds relationships and provides training on public health law within the public health community.
- Lawrence O. Gostin, Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint (2nd ed. 2008). ISBN 978-0-520-25376-6, UC Press
- Lawrence O. Gostin, Public Health Law and Ethics (2nd ed. 2010). ISBN 978-0-520-26192-1, UC Press
- European Journal of Health Law, ISSN: 1571-8093 (electronic) 0929-0273 (Paper), Springer
- Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, ISSN: 1527-1927 (electronic) 0361-6878 (paper), Duke University Press
- The Network for Public Health Law*
- Public Health Law Research*
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Law Program, http://www2a.cdc.gov/phlp/
- "Salus Populi Suprema Lex": the health of the people is the supreme law. W H Helfand, J Lazarus, and P Theerman, American Journal of Public Health, May 2001, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446671/
- ISPUB - The Internet Journal of Law, Healthcare and Ethics
- Network for Public Health Law - education and legal technical assistance in public health law