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Public Health Law: Power, Duty and Restraint

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Abstract:

This resource guide reviews the state of public health in America. It offers a definition and theory of public health law and proposes five characteristics of public health law: government, populations, relationships, services, and coercive power. The guide also explains public health powers within the constitutional design, demonstrating the constitutional basis for public health powers at the federal and state levels, as well as limits on these powers. Next, the guide proposes a step-by-step assessment of the benefits and burdens of a given public health regulation. The guide also examines the current structure of local, state and federal public health agencies, and discusses the breadth of the powers they exercise. Finally, the guide describes various legal tools available to health agencies to prevent injury and disease and promote health and safety. It examines the regulation of both personal behavior (immunization, civil confinement, etc.) and commercial activities (licenses, inspections, etc.). The guide closes with a look at the future of public health law, with a focus on current deficiencies and proposed guidelines for reform.