What is Public Health Law?

Law plays an important role in the public health care system.

A public health official has many responsibilities and legal rights when protecting and promoting their community’s health.

There are three areas associated with public health law, law of populations, prevention of disease and injury, and police power.

Public health law is the area of law that impacts community well-being and the state of the public good.

It is an area of law that encompasses many different topics that all have an influence on the common good and safe living conditions.

Lawyers who practice public health law may work for the government to create and enforce regulations, or they may work for one of the many private companies or organizations that public health laws and regulations impact.

What is Public Health Law?

Public health law is the type of law that relates to public health.

It is an area of law that has to do with the ability of the public to live healthy, safely, and in a positive way as a community.

Public health law is the government’s legal powers, moral obligations, and limitations in creating and enforcing laws that affect living conditions that are conducive to public health.

Why is Law Important in Public Health?

Law is important in public health because of its ability to impact public health matters in a short period of time.

When certain behavior is mandatory with the power and force of law, it can quickly impact society.

While some community problems cannot be solved by voluntary actions alone, with the force of law, society can address community concerns and improve living conditions.

The law is important to public health because it can be highly effective in responding to public health concerns.

What Are The Types of Public Health Law?

The types of public health law include:

  • Constitutional law – The United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, gives the federal government the power to regulate interstate commerce. Lawmakers often rely on the commerce clause in order to regulate public health matters.
  • Statutory law – Public health laws come from federal, state, and local legislators. Elected lawmakers create laws that impact public health issues and behavior in an attempt to promote community safety and well-being.
  • Case law – Judges create precedent through their interpretation of laws. When a law doesn’t cover a nuance or when the wording is unclear, the legal process calls on judges to create enforceable legal orders. Their orders become a part of the public health law.
  • International treaties and agreements – Many public health issues are worldwide concerns. Countries can work together to create international treaties and agreements that address concerns of international importance.

Health Law Topics

Health law topics are varied.

Even if a law or regulation doesn’t come from a public health agency, if it influences public health and well-being, it is very much a public health law topic.

Some examples of health law topics include:

  • Mandatory vaccinations
  • Child vision and hearing screening
  • Seat belt laws
  • Counseling for convicted violent offenders
  • Low-income housing programs
  • Public health care programs
  • Building codes
  • Vehicle specifications
  • Approval and distribution of medicines
  • Fluoride in public water
  • Toxic waste regulations
  • Emergency preparedness programs
  • Sanitation programs

Public Health Agencies

Most public health agencies are a part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

However, there are federal agencies that are under the umbrella of other government entities.

The Public Health Service Act of 1944 lays the foundation for significant federal oversight of public health issues.

Some agencies regulating public health include:

National Institutes of Health

The National Institutes of Health is the primary government agency for researching public health issues.

The NIH also works to develop and implement health strategies.

Center for Disease Control

The Centers for Disease Control works on issues like the prevention of disease, injury, disability, and environmental hazards.

Office of the Inspector General

The Office of the Inspector General is a part of DHHS.

The office ensures the integrity of government health programs like Medicaid.

Indian Health Service Agency

Part of the DHHS, the Indian Health Service Agency addresses poverty and other material health needs to improve the quality of life among Native American populations.

Who Practices Public Health Law?

The lawyers who practice public health law work in balanced numbers for both government agencies and private corporations.

Corporations need lawyers to represent their interests when it comes to public health matters.

For example, a lawyer may work as a lobbyist to promote or oppose legislation.

They also represent clients to initiate or continue active cases that are a part of the legal process.

Lawyers working in public health law for government agencies develop, pursue, and enforce regulations relating to health topics.

They specialize in a particular area of health law depending on where they work.

Lawyers must be skilled at analyzing health issues, drafting legislation, and pursuing contested legal actions as needed in order to perform their work.

Public health lawyers often have specialized training in their areas of expertise.

Individuals who want to enter the area of law often study public health as part of their legal studies or as part of additional programs beyond their law degree.

Law schools may offer specialty programs in order to meet the needs of students wanting to enter the field.

Why Practice Public Health Law?

Practicing public health law gives attorneys the opportunity to change and influence society.

Changes to laws that relate to community issues can quickly and significantly alter the behavior of populations.

Lawyers who practice public health law participate in the conversation.

Not only do the attorneys work to improve living conditions for large groups, but they also work to protect the rights of citizens and private enterprises.

Public Health Law

Public health law is a critical and influential area of law.

Lawyers work to make, challenge, defend, and enforce a variety of laws that influence the health of populations.

Through public and private work, administrative work, and enforcement actions, public health lawyers, through the practice of law, impact the world.

Michael Morales

About Michael Morales

Michael Morales is the Webmaster and Editor in Chief for Legalcareerpaths.com. With a strong background in Web Publishing and Internet Marketing, he currently works as an independent consultant. A former paramedic and ems educator, he enjoys punishing himself doing triathlons and endurance sports. Michael currently lives in sunny Northern California, home of the highest tax rates in the world.

2 Responses to What is Public Health Law?

  1. Avatar
    Jason Wrinkle #

    The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of public health law, emphasizing its role in managing health crises, ensuring access to care, and protecting communities.

  2. Avatar
    Eyner Cruz #

    This often intersects with various legal areas, including environmental law, healthcare law, and administrative law, providing processionals with diverse career opportunities.

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