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The Community Public Health Legal Preparedness Initiative

Building Effective Public Health-Health Care Legal Partnerships

The Initiative

A Critical Gap in "Legal Preparedness" for Public Health Emergencies

Law plays a critical role in protecting Americans from public health emergencies--such as the anthrax attacks of October 2001, the SARS epidemic, and potential pandemic West Nile Virus and other infectious disease outbreaks.   Law makes equally important contributions to chronic disease prevention, environmental health protection, and prevention of injury and disability.

Since 2001, public health attorneys have worked intensively to assess and update health agencies’ “legal preparedness” for public health emergencies.  However, health care attorneys have had few opportunities to learn about the legal framework in which their clients-private and public hospitals and other health care organizations-would operate during an acute public health emergency.  True community-wide legal preparedness hinges critically on close coordination between public health agencies and health care organizations-e.g., in quarantine, vaccination, treatment of victims, etc.  

Key Initiative Goals  

To help address this gap, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Law Section of the American Bar Association (ABA), and the non-profit Public Health Law Association (PHLA) have partnered to develop the Community Public Health Legal Preparedness Initiative.  The goals of the Initiative are:

  • As the first priority, to give health care attorneys and public health attorneys thorough, shared understanding of their clients’ legal roles and responsibilities during acute public health emergencies, and
  • Strategically, to build vibrant, enduring partnerships between health care and public health attorneys who will enhance the use of law as a tool for better community health through prevention and health promotion
To read more about the need for greater collaboration between public health and health care attorneys, please access the article, "Community Public Health Legal Preparedness, Bridging the Gap between Public Health and Health Care Attorneys" by Montrece McNeill Ransom, JD, published in the March 2004 issue of The American Health Lawyers Association Health Lawyers News.

The Workshops

Workshops in Community Public Health Legal Preparedness

CDC, the ABA, and PHLA have developed a template for intensive, one-day workshops where health care attorneys and public health attorneys in a given community can jointly learn about the laws that define the roles and responsibilities of health care organizations and public health agencies in public health emergencies. 
The template was designed and refined through three workshops - attended by a total of more than 400 participants - held in Atlanta, Houston, and Tulsa, in 2003-2004, all with co-sponsorship by the state or local bar association, the counterpart public health agency, or local schools of law and public health. Co-sponsorship has proven highly successful both for the workshops as such and to lay a strong foundation for on-going partnership between health care attorneys and public health attorneys.
Read more about the Houston workshop, held in the Spring of 2004: Health Law Policy Institute, Health Law News, University of Houston Health Law and Policy.

Workshop Director's Guide
CPHLPI Wokshop Director's Guide
A complete Workshop Director's Guide has been prepared with guidance for planning and conducting workshops and suggestions for ways to customize the template to address the needs of a specific community.  The guide reflects lessons learned from the three initial workshops as well as comments from the members of the ABA's Health Law Section and the Public Health Law Association.

If you are interested in serving as a Workshop Director, or you would like a hard copy of the guide, contact Montrece McNeill Ransom, JD of the CDC Public Health Law Program at 404-639-4630 or  In addition to providing assistance in identifying target audiences, deciding learning objectives and content, the guide includes information on securing Continuing Legal Education credits, samples of agendas, presentations, and task lists.

Transcript of the Community Public Health Legal Preparedness Initiative (CPHLPI) Teleconference
The CDC Public Health Law Program, in partnership with the non-profit Public Health Law Association and the Health Law Section of the American Bar Association (Public Health and Policy Interest Group), presented an informational teleconference on December 1, 2004.  The teleconference was moderated by Hal Katz, JD, Chair of the ABA's Public Health and Policy Group.  Panelists included Gary Cox, JD, Director of the Tulsa City-County Health Department, Montrece McNeill Ransom, JD, CDC, Attorney Analyst, and Susan K. Steeg, JD, Executive Director, PHLA.  To read the transcript, please visit:

Materials for Workshop Directors:

Initiative Partners

Optimal and full legal preparedness for public health emergencies (and improved public health, generally) requires a multifaceted, multidisciplinary approach—the linking of previously unlinked organizations. For more information on initiative partners and co-sponsors, please visit their websites:
American Bar Association, Health Law Section
Public Health Law Association


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