Peter D. Jacobson, J.D., M.P.H., is co-director of the Network’s Mid-States Region Office and Professor Emeritus of Health Law and Policy, and Director, at the Center for Law, Ethics, and Health, at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, where he taught courses on health law, public health law, and public health policy. Professor Jacobson served on the Board of Health for the Washtenaw County (Michigan) Health Department. Previous Board Memberships include the National Center for Healthcare Leadership and Heluna Health. He is the principal investigator for the Mid-States Region of the Network for Public Health Law, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program.

Professor Jacobson’s most recent research included a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project examining the implementation of health in all policies programs, and a de Beaumont Foundation funded project examining the legal issues that contributed to the Flint Water Crisis. Jacobson’s previous public health systems research projects included health departments’ strategic adaptations, public health entrepreneurship, and the U.S. Surgeon General’s vital mission. His books include Law and the Health System (co-authored—Foundation Press, 2014), youth tobacco control, breast cancer, and the role of the courts in shaping health policy.

From 2010-2016, Professor Jacobson was the Associate Editor for Health Law and Public Health at the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. From 2010-2012, he served as President of the Public Health Law Association, and was Chair of the Advisory Committee to AcademyHealth’s Public Health Systems Research Interest Group from 2009-2010. In 2016, Jacobson received a lifetime achievement award from the APHA’s Health Law Section, and in 2017, he received the Distinguished Health Law Professor Award from the Association of Law, Medicine, and Ethics.

Articles & Resources

Q&A: Executive Decision Making for COVID-19: Public Health Science through a Political Lens

Law & Policy InsightsPublic Health Advocacy and Decision-Making

October 21, 2020
by Denise Chrysler and Peter D. Jacobson

In this Q&A, Denise Chrysler, director and Peter Jacobson, co-director, of the Network’s Mid-States Region Office, discuss some of the key elements in the chapter they co-authored, Executive Decision Making for COVID-19: Public Health Science through a Political Lens, for the Report.

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Public Health Decision-making in the COVID-19 Era: Act, but be Cautious

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19Public Health Advocacy and Decision-Making

August 26, 2020
by Peter D. Jacobson

By temperament, I’m generally an aggressive interpreter of state public health codes. In normal times, I argue for an expansive interpretation of health officers’ authority to protect the public’s health. But these are not normal times. A non-trivial portion of the public believes the coronavirus is a hoax and mask-wearing mandates are tyrannical. One result of this resistance is that public health officials have been attacked and threatened for issuing or enforcing COVID-19 mask-wearing or stay-at-home orders. Health officers cannot ignore the potential threats to their personal safety. Depending on the local political environment, some caution is called for—caution, not acquiescence.

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Issuing a COVID-19 Press Release That Identifies a Specific Location

GuidanceHealth Data Sharing and Privacy

August 14, 2020
by Peter D. Jacobson

A county health department seeks guidance on whether the department can issue a press release indicating that individuals who attended a party on a specific date at a specific address may have been exposed to COVID-19. As explained in detail below, there are no legal barriers to issuing the proposed press release. Instead, this is a policy question within the health department’s discretion.

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Physician Liability for COVID-19 Testing

GuidanceHealth Data Sharing and Privacy

August 14, 2020
by Peter D. Jacobson

A public health physician is seeking clarification of his/her duties in light of Michigan Governor Whitmer’s Emergency Declaration (Executive Order 2020-104) to increase COVID-19 testing. Does testing for COVID-19 establish a physician-patient duty to patients for whom a physician orders or conducts a test? Is it legally permissible to order these tests when no assessment is made on the tested patients? As explained in detail below, the answer to the first question is that Michigan law imposes a limited duty, but with immunity from personal liability. The answer to the second question is yes.

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Learning from the Flint Water Crisis: Legal Implications and Community Public Health Impacts

WebinarsEnvironment, Climate and HealthSafe Drinking Water

May 15, 2018
by Colleen Healy Boufides, Jennifer Bernstein and Peter D. Jacobson

In 2014, while under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, the city of Flint, Michigan, switched its water source from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River. As a result, lead from the aging service lines to homes leached into the drinking water and poisoned thousands of Flint residents.

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Learning from the Flint Water Crisis – Protecting the Public’s Health During a Financial Emergency

ReportEmergency Legal Preparedness and ResponseEnvironment, Climate and HealthFlint Water Crisis Project

February 13, 2018
by Colleen Healy Boufides, Denise Chrysler, Jennifer Bernstein and Peter D. Jacobson

This report, co-authored by attorneys from the Network for Public Health Law and the University of Michigan School of Public Health, details why shortcomings in the structure and implementation of laws related to public health, safe drinking water, and emergency financial management failed to stop or mitigate the Flint water crisis. Along with key findings, the report provides recommendations to help prevent similar crises from happening in other communities.

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Emergency Manager Law Primer: Protecting the Public’s Health During Financial Emergencies – Lessons Learned from the Flint Water Crisis

PrimerEmergency Legal Preparedness and ResponseEnvironment, Climate and HealthFlint Water Crisis Project

February 13, 2018
by Colleen Healy Boufides, Denise Chrysler, Jennifer Bernstein and Peter D. Jacobson

This primer is intended to help policymakers and practitioners incorporate the lessons learned from the Flint Water Crisis to avert and/or mitigate future crises.

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