Public Health and the Law

Students will learn about the role of law in protecting and preserving the public’s health. We will examine the sources of law that give federal, state, and local government power and duty to adopt public health policy and the sources of law that constrain those powers. The course will cover the interplay between federal, state, and local public health agencies and the structure and function of the public health system. We will examine the impact of preemption, public health ethics, epidemiology, administrative law, and other factors on the development of public health laws. Students will learn about social determinants of health and racism as a public health crisis and how law has contributed to health inequities and the role that law can play in reducing those inequities. The course also serves as a survey of persistent and emerging public health legal issues through which we discuss the impact of law and policy. Specific topics may include substance use and addiction (tobacco, alcohol, opioids), food safety and security, regulation of cannabis, vaccination policy, and housing protections. We will examine how law impacted the COVID-19 pandemic, responded to the pandemic, and will be changed because of the pandemic. Students will be responsible for covering “public health in the news” stories for each class session and will engage in meaningful discussion around those topics.

For Fall 2021, students may take the course for two credits, with grading based on a final exam and participation in class and in online discussions.

Key to Codes in Course Descriptions
P: Prerequisite
C: Prerequisite or Concurrent Requirement
R: Recommended Prior or Concurrent Course