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J Law Med Ethics. 2002 Fall;30(3 Suppl):57-62.

The power to act: two model state statutes.

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  • 1Alaska Division of Public Health, Juneau, Alaska, USA.


Enabling statutes for state and local public health agencies set forth their powers and duties and provide the legal basis for their work. Obsolescence, inconsistency, and inadequacy may render some public health laws ineffective or even counterproductive. Reforming state public health law can improve the legal infrastructure that supports public health systems in responding to bioterrorism and other public health threats. Two legal tools available to assist the process of establishing a strong legal foundation for public health practice are the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, developed in 2001 by the Center for Law and the Public's Health, and the Model State Public Health Act, currently under development by the Turning Point Public Health Statute Modernization National Collaborative. These model acts can serve as guides for assessing current state public health law, and they provide example statutory language for use by those working to update their laws. That strong state public health law and model public health acts serve as resources for law reform is recognized by local health officials and state legislators as well as by state public health officials. Lessons learned from recent experiences with crafting and introducing legislation based on the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act can prove useful in the future to those working on public health law reform efforts in their states.

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