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Health Law
Section Newsletter
Fall 2008

* 2008 APHA Annual Meeting Preview

* Health Law in the News

* Institutional Changes: New Centers, Positions, Funded Projects, and Awards

* New Publications: Books, Articles, Reports, and Internet Resources

* Upcoming Conferences, Meetings, and Calls for Abstracts



Ross D. Silverman, JD, MPH



Benjamin Mason Meier, JD, LLM, MPhil

Message from the Chair

Welcome to the Fall 2008 issue of the APHA Law Special Primary Interest Group Newsletter.  In addition to bringing you news and announcements about Health Law SPIG members, and offering you a feature column by Health Law SPIG member Jason Smith, assistant professor at the University of Connecticut Health Center, on the training of public health law practitioners, this issue of the newsletter also includes information about Health Law SPIG activities and panels taking place in just a few weeks at the APHA Annual Meeting in San Diego.


Thanks to the submissions by Health Law SPIG members, and the work of Program Chair Heather McCabe, the Health Law SPIG will offer five outstanding panels at this year’s Annual Meeting (listed under APHA Highlights).  The precise locations for panels will be released closer to the Annual Meeting; however, as the Health Law SPIG’s headquarters is at the Manchester Grand Hyatt (#10 on the APHA’s Housing Map), it is likely that the presentations will be held there.  The APHA administration tracks the number of attendees at scientific sessions, and their tallies in part drive decisions by APHA about the number of panels we will be able to offer at future meetings, and the venues in which such panels would be held (e.g., the main convention center or “off site” at one of the conference hotels).  Therefore, I would encourage you to support the Health Law SPIG-sponsored panels through attending the sessions — which I hope you would find of interest anyway — and to bring along your colleagues and friends.


Also, please mark your calendars for the Health Law SPIG annual business meeting, which will take place at the conference Monday, Oct. 27, beginning at 6:30 p.m. (Session #328.0).  The room location for the business meeting will be announced around the start of the Annual Meeting, and we will send out the agenda a little closer to the meeting date as well.  Two topics which will be discussed at the business meeting are how to promote the continued growth and presence of the Health Law SPIG within APHA (see more information below), and topics for the Call for Abstracts for the 2009 Annual Meeting. Next year’s meeting is Nov. 7-11, 2009 in Philadelphia, and the conference theme is: “Water and Public Health: the 21st Century Challenge.”  If there are additional issues you would like to suggest as agenda items for the business meeting, please contact me at


On the subject of the SPIG’s growth: one of the keys to becoming more visible at the APHA Annual Meeting, and in gaining a greater voice in APHA, is through the growth of the group from a SPIG to a Section.  In recognition that addressing issues of public health requires that such concerns be seen as arising out of multifactorial, interdisciplinary systems, last November, the APHA Governing Council made it possible for members to declare membership in up to three Sections or SPIGs.  This offers an outstanding opportunity for expansion of the membership of the Health Law SPIG, as law and policy issues are found in nearly all facets of public health, from administration and community health planning, to food and nutrition, injury control, international health and beyond.  I personally know of a number of APHA members with backgrounds in law, policy and human rights who previously felt obligated to declare their “allegiance” with another Section or SPIG, as that was the area of law in which they worked.  This new membership arrangement would allow them to let their Health Law flag fly.  Furthermore, Health Law SPIG membership likely would appeal to the myriad public health administrators and other public health workers whose day-to-day responsibilities are replete with issues of law and policy.  In the coming weeks, I will be sending out a note to those APHA members with law backgrounds who are not currently members of the SPIG encouraging them to join the group, and I would encourage all Health Law SPIG members to alert their colleagues and friends in the field about this new arrangement.  More information about how to declare a second membership unit and the benefits of multi-unit membership can be found at


Thanks as always to Benjamin Meier, Health Law SPIG Newsletter editor and architect of the official Health Law SPIG Web Site, for all the work he has done to bring news of the SPIG to the members.


See you all in San Diego!


Ross D. Silverman, JD, MPH

Chair, Health Law SPIG

Professor and Chair

Department of Medical Humanities

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine

2008 APHA Annual Meeting Preview

Health Law SPIG

Monday, Oct. 27, 2008

2:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m.


3326.0 - International Law and Public Health

4:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m.


3413.0 - Invitational Session in Public Health Law

6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.


328.0 - Health Law Forum Business Meeting

Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008

8:30 a.m.-10:00 a.m.


4035.0 - Public Health Law Training and Education

12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m.


4193.0 - Preparedness and the Law

4:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m.


4358.0 - Public Health Research and the Law

Health Law in the News

The Role of Law in Responding to Modern Global Health Challenges[1]


Jason A. Smith

Assistant Professor in the Division of Medical Humanities, Health Law & Ethics at the University of Connecticut Health Center and health center advisor for the JD/MPH program


Joint degree programs in law and public health are the key to effectively training practitioners in public health law. Increasingly complex and multi-level systems of causation define chronic conditions, threats of pandemic, and environmental factors impacting public health today, and their solutions require a growing level of legal and policy complexity. Public health practitioners trained in public health law must be able to effectively navigate these increasingly complex environments to improve population health. Joint degree programs are the key to training these practitioners.


JD/MPH programs are essential to producing effective practitioners in public health law, to building bridges with lawyers and policymakers who implement policies, and to producing necessary scholarship in public health law. The public health curriculum alone is not sufficient. Public health curricula are rooted in competency-based approaches to training. These approaches focus on the ability of practitioners to achieve particular measurable outcomes given a set of skills, knowledge and attitudes. Outcome is emphasized over process. In contrast, legal education applies a unique case-based method of instruction that focuses on process and relies on a licensure process to ensure proper training. While law students are trained in legal doctrine, the focus of the training is less on the doctrine itself and more on the process of legal analysis — applying the law to continually changing legal and factual situations. Only in joint degree programs are these approaches brought together effectively.


Dual degree programs offering graduates an opportunity to earn both their MPH and JD are key. These programs allow students to be trained as lawyers learning all the skills necessary for effective legal practice while also training students in the key competencies of public health. Students are given the skills to measure the impact of law on population health in the public health curriculum while learning the skills necessary to effectively implement public health policy in a legal context. These programs also produce graduates who can build bridges between law and public health. The professional cultures of law and public health are very different, and these cultural differences often make the implementation of public health policies difficult and the policy process frustrating. Graduates with degrees in law and public health are uniquely positioned to bridge this difference and make the process of implementing public health policy more effective.

Finally, these joint degree programs bring together scholars in public health and in law. Public health issues such as food safety, childhood obesity, climate change, and emergency preparedness all arise in complex legal and policy environments. Legal issues such as preemption, commercial speech doctrine, and the constitutional relationships of state and federal governments have moved to the fore as key issues in public health policy. Joint degree programs provide an institutional setting to bring together scholars to work on these interdisciplinary problems effectively. These programs can also provide known institutional settings to develop expertise in public health law and to collaborate with practitioners and advocates on solutions to future public health problems.


While it is possible to teach practitioners and students the law in MPH programs or in continuing education programs, it is not possible to provide sufficient competency to achieve desired legal outcomes in a public health setting. Without legal education, practitioners will understand only what the law is as written rather than what it is as applied or how it works. MPH programs alone cannot provide sufficient training to design legal interventions for public health. Joint degree programs are essential not only for training individuals but for building capacity in public health law. Investment in JD/MPH programs and active recruitment of students into the programs are key.

[1] This abstract is based on a forthcoming article, "Training Individuals in Public Health Law" to appear in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics and a presentation, "Training in Public Health Law: Limitations of Competency-Based Models," on the panel "Public Health Law Training and Education" at the 2008 APHA Annual Meeting.

New Publications

Senators Obama and McCain have put forward health care reform plans that fail to meet human rights standards, according to an analysis by the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI). This new assessment, based on human rights standards for health care reform, finds that both plans rely on market competition to solve the current health care crisis, without addressing how markets could be incentivized to put health protection ahead of the drive for profits. Despite significant differences in approach, the nominees’ plans share a focus on a consumer product — insurance coverage — rather than on actual health care, a public good. The assessment develops detailed standards for the implementation of the human right to health care in the United States and suggests basic steps the nominees could take towards meeting those standards.  The publication, “The Human Right to Health Care: Nominees’ Plans Lag Behind Public Demands,” is available at  


Lawrence O. Gostin, Linda and Timothy O’Neill Professor of Global Health Law, Georgetown University, has just published the second edition of "Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint" (University of California Press, 2008), which arrived in bookstores in September.


An analysis released Sept. 3, 2008 by the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services provides an in-depth examination of public comments submitted in response to a proposed HSRA rule to narrow the federal definition of medical underservice.  The report, "Designation of Medically Underserved and Health Professional Shortage Areas: Analysis of the Public Comments on the Withdrawn Proposed Regulation" can be found at:


Lance Gable, JD, MPH, assistant professor of law at Wayne State University Law School, has recently co-authored the article "HIV/AIDS, Sexual and Reproductive Health, and the Law"  (with Lawrence O. Gostin and James G. Hodge, Jr.), which will appear in the October 2008 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. He also participated as a delegate at the recent meeting "Confronting the Ethics of Pandemic Influenza Planning: The 2008 Summit of the States," held in Indianapolis, Ind.


Mike Taylor, JD, research professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Service, published a paper on approaches to strengthening the food safety infrastructure, which has been challenged recently by a spate of "widespread, pathogen-linked outbreaks associated with fruits or vegetables along the 'farm-to-fork' continuum that encompasses harvesting, packing, processing, transporting, distribution, and preparation."  The paper, which was written under the GW SPHHS Rapid Public Health Policy Response Project, can be downloaded at


Eleanor Kinney published “Recognition of the International Human Right to Health and Health Care in the United States,” 60 RUTGERS LAW REVIEW 337 (2008).

Institutional Changes

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law has partnered with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids as part of its Bloomberg Initiative to help reverse the tobacco epidemic by building litigation strategies in low- and middle-income countries.  The Institute is working with global tobacco advocates to develop a series of country specific toolkits, with the goal of helping low- and middle-income countries develop innovative litigation strategies targeted to their specific political, cultural and economic environments.  In addition, the O’Neill Institute has received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to engage in a year-long project that will identify and examine legal issues likely to surface in potential debates concerning federal health care reform.  Drawing from key legal questions identified in an initial framing paper, the O’Neill Institute is in the process of organizing nine consultation groups to advise on individual memoranda that will both analyze the key legal issues and offer a diverse set of legal options for addressing those issues. 


The Hall Center has joined forces with the Indiana University Center for Bioethics in the IU School of Medicine and the Center for Health Policy in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs to establish the Consortium for Health Policy, Law and Bioethics.  One joint consortium research effort was developing health reform proposals for Indiana and co-sponsoring a summit of the states on public health preparedness.


The Health Law section of the Florida Bar recently established a Public Health Law Committee as a standing committee of the section.  The mission of this Committee is to help protect the public health of Floridians by: supporting public health law education for attorneys and other stakeholders; offering networking and liaison opportunities between attorneys who advise on public health issues; monitoring public health legislation and serving as a resource for sponsors of such legislation; and acting in other ways to promote the study and application of public health law.  The co-chairs of the committee are Rod Johnson and Walter Carfora.


Lawrence O. Gostin, Linda and Timothy O’Neill Professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University, was appointed to three World Health Organization Committees — one on global tuberculosis, the other on biosecurity, and thirdly the WHO Committee of Experts on the new International Health Regulations.


The Indiana law school hosted the National Judges' Medical School at the end of May, bringing together more than 200 state and federal judges from 39 jurisdictions across the country. The program is part of a larger initiative, the Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center, or ASTAR.

Upcoming Events


The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law is partnering with the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health to plan a major event entitled “The Power of Global Health and Science as a Diplomatic Tool.”  This one-day event, to be held on Nov. 12, 2008, will consist of multiple sessions, each of which will be led by a Georgetown faculty member and will involve the participation of an interdisciplinary group of experts from scientists and physicians to government policy-makers, academics, and representatives from major NGOs, IGOs, funding agencies and field practitioners.


The European Public Health Law Network arises from the European Union co-funded PHLawFlu project. The Web site has been designed to facilitate the exchange of expertise on the use of law as a tool for public health protection and promotion across the European Union and beyond. Membership of the Web site is free, and open to anyone with a professional interest in public health law. We particularly welcome legal academics whose work involves public health, and public health professionals whose work involves issues of law. As a member of the Web site you will have access to a repository of public health legislative texts from around the world, more than 500 links to publications covering a broad spectrum of current public health issues, and the possibility of exchanging expertise and information with other members.


NIH Summit on the Science of Eliminating Health Disparities - Join the NIH Institutes, Centers, Offices, and their many partners engaged in research on minority health and health disparities on Dec. 16-18, 2008 to:

* Highlight the research progress of the NIH on health issues among racial/ethnic minority and medically under-served populations. 

* Increase awareness and understanding of disparities in health. 

* Showcase best-practice models in research, capacity-building, outreach, and integrated strategies to eliminate health disparities. 

* Identify strengths and gaps in health disparities research. 

* Network and dialogue with the nation’s leading experts on minority health and health disparities.