Law is a foundational public health tool for disease prevention and health promotion. For many traditional public health problems, both acute and chronic, the role of law has been crucial in attaining public health goals, both framing and complementing the roles of epidemiology and laboratory science. Many of the greatest successes claimed by public health, such as high childhood immunization rates, improved motor vehicle safety, safer workplaces, and reduced tooth decay, have relied heavily on law. Recently, law has played a fundamental role in the control and prevention of emerging health problems such as SARS and the threat of pandemic influenza.
The CDC Director established the Public Health Law Program in 2000, following consultations with CDC programs and extramural partners, to lead the agency’s public health law initiative. The Public Health Law Program is a component of the Office for State, Tribal, Local and Teritorial Support.
Mission, Goals, and Strategies
The Program’s mission is to advance the public's health through law.
The Program has three strategic goals:
- To improve the understanding and use of law as a public health tool
- To develop CDC’s capacity to apply law to achievement of its Health Protection Goals
- To develop the legal preparedness of the public health system to address all public health priorities
- Developing practical, law-centered tools for practitioners and policy makers in all relevant sectors
- Engaging practitioners and policy makers in identifying priorities and in developing and applying legal tools
- Addressing all four core elements of public health legal preparedness: laws and legal authorities; competencies; coordination across sectors and jurisdictions; and, scientific and best-practices information
- Providing consultation to CDC programs and partners
- Establishing partnerships linking CDC and all partners active in public health law
Impact on the People's HealthThe law-based tools developed by the Public Health Law Program enable CDC programs and front-line public health professionals and policy makers to make such advances as:
- Accelerating and enhancing their response to public health emergencies, including bioterrorism and pandemic influenza
- Identifying promising new tools for prevention of obesity and other chronic diseases
- Upgrading the legal authorities of state, tribal, and local governments to reduce the public’s exposure to tuberculosis
- Improving identification of injuries, injury risk factors, and injury prevention interventions
- Mobilizing and focusing new resources on the nation’s public health priorities through collaboration with established partners as well as with such novel and unconventional partners as elected state and local officials, the private bar, law enforcement, and the judiciary
The Public Health Law Program collaborates with a growing number of colleagues in many disciplines. These include public health policy makers and practitioners; elected officials; attorneys in public health, health care, and related specialties; members of the law enforcement, judicial, and emergency management communities; researchers; educators; and many others. Intramurally, we work closely with CDC programs to help them develop their capacity to use law in their work.