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Public Health Q&A: Public Health Emergency Legal Preparedness

posted on Mon, Oct 7 2013 9:49 am by The Network National Coordinating Center

The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics recently released a supplemental issue featuring articles generated by sessions at the 2012 Public Health Law Conference. Jennifer Bernstein, Senior Attorney at the Network’s Mid-States Region, authored “Beyond Public Health Emergency Legal Preparedness: Rethinking Best Practices,” which explores the role of legal preparedness in all areas of public health practice. In this Q&A, she gives an introduction to her article and how it addresses a critical public health issue.


Q: Why is this topic so critical right now?

A: The breadth of legal issues and the types of laws that attorneys dealing with local public health challenges must be familiar with is extensive. Attorneys who represent local health departments usually have many competing priorities for their time and resources, making attainment of specialized legal knowledge difficult. This could have a detrimental effect on the use of law as a tool to improve public health.

Q: How does your article address this issue and its challenges?

A: This article briefly reviews the literature on public health legal preparedness, including the four core elements. The goal of public health legal preparedness is to include the attainment of legal benchmarks by public health systems to ensure legal preparedness. The practice of public health law would greatly benefit from more resources to guide practitioners in the effective use and application of the law. This article discusses a need to refocus public health legal preparedness to include all areas of public health law and presents an alternative to the fourth core element to focus on evidence and experience based public health law practice, rather than best practices.

Q: Are there areas of opportunity?

A: This article presents an opportunity to aid in the development of legal benchmarks so public health systems can more effectively work towards attaining public health legal preparedness in all areas of public health practice.

Q: How do laws and policies make an impact?

Attorneys use the law to carry out public health objectives. It is important to base public health legal preparedness benchmarks not just on peer-reviewed research, but also on experiential knowledge developed through the actual practice of public health law.

Read the full article here.

The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided in this document does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, readers should consult a lawyer in their state. The views expressed in this post do not represent those of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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