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Public Health: Public Health Law and Ethics

PH 310 OL1 (CRN: 61921)

3 Credit Hours

About PH 310 OL1

Public health law examines the government's authority, at various jurisdictional levels, to improve the health of the general population within societal limits and norms. Prerequisite: Bachelor's degree.


Related Programs

Aiken Lecture Series, Aiken Lecture Series, Certificate of Graduate Study in Global and Environmental Health, Certificate of Graduate Study in Public Health and delete tester page


Dates: May 21-June 29, 2018; Open to graduate-level Public Health Students; All other students require instructor permission; Must submit the request at; Students will be notified if permission is granted; contact student Advisor, Vika Pleshakova at for any questions.

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Section Description

BRIEF COURSE DESCRIPTION: Public health law examines the government’s authority, at various jurisdictional levels, to improve the health of the general population within societal limits and norms. INTRODUCTION: Public health law is the study of the legal powers and duties of the state, in collaboration with its partners (e.g., health care providers, business, the community, the media, and academe), to assure the conditions for people to be healthy, and the limits on state powers to constrain the autonomy, privacy, liberty, proprietary, or other legally protected interests of individuals for protection or promotion of community health. Public health ethics seek to understand and clarify principles and values that guide public health actions, offering a framework for making decisions and a means of justifying them. LEARNING OBJECTIVES: The course has four basic learning objectives: 1. Understand and discuss the operation of the U.S. legal system generally. 2. Understand and define the role of the police power in public health. 3. Understand and describe the role of law in population health. 4. Understand basic public health ethics. These learning objectives are also intimately related to certain core competencies identified by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) for the master of public health degree in graduate schools and programs of public health. The primary vision for the ASPH initiative is the graduation of professionals who are more fully prepared for the many challenges and opportunities in public health in the forthcoming decade. See: Calhoun et al., 2008. Development of a core competency model for the Master of Public Health Degree. American Journal of Public Health, 98(9), pp. 1598-1607. DETAILED COURSE DESCRIPTION: The course is divided into four parts consisting of thirteen modules. In the first part (Modules 1 and 2), we will cover the major concepts in the field of public health (e.g., prevention and the population perspective), ethics (e.g., paternalism and the harm principle), socioeconomic disparities, and the regulation of dangerous activities. The second part of the course (Modules 3-7) examines important doctrines and controversies in public health law. We will address the powers and duties of the state in the area of public health and the limitations that our constitutional system places on the exercise of public health powers. We will also focus on three areas that are key to the practice of public health law: administrative law, which delineates when an agency is allowed to directly regulate for the public’s health; tort law, which indirectly regulates behavior through civil liability, and transnational law, which facilitates a globalized approach to public health. We will also look at international public health law, world trade law, and human rights. The third part of the course (Modules 8-12) addresses some of the major controversies and trade-offs involved in contemporary public health theory and practice. We will discuss surveillance, public health research, and the right to privacy. We will explore the interplay between speech and behavior by looking at health communications and commercial speech against the backdrop of free expression. We will consider medical countermeasures (immunization, screening, and treatment) and public health strategies (isolation, quarantine, and community containment) for preventing and mitigating the spread of epidemic disease, and the effects of those measures and strategies on bodily integrity and liberty. We will also examine the regulation of businesses and the value of economic liberty. Finally, in the fourth part of the course (Module 13), we will discuss case studies highlighting three of the most complex and important of today’s public health challenges: bioterrorism and biosecurity, public health genomics, and obesity. This part of the course also underscores the various course themes – public health ethics, the interconnectedness between domestic and global health, and the effects of socioeconomic disparities on public health. The text is Lawrence O. Gostin's Public Health Law & Ethics: A Reader, ISBN: 9780520261921.




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