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J Law Med Ethics. 2008 Fall;36(3 Suppl):6-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2008.00312.x.

Building public health law capacity at the local level.

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1
University of Maryland School of Law, MD, USA.

Abstract

Local health officials are called upon every day to implement the programs, enforce the regulations, and take the actions that protect the health of the citizens in their districts. These responsibilities and duties are created and regulated by a complex interplay of federal, state, and local law. Not only is an understanding of these laws necessary to carry out public health activities on a daily basis, but many public health scholars and practitioners also believe that the law can be used as a tool to take proactive steps to improve public health. Unfortunately, many local public health officials do not have access to the legal assistance they need to address the various legal questions that confront them. This deficit makes it harder for them to meet their day-to-day responsibilities and makes it much more difficult for them to use the law proactively as a method to improve public health in their communities. In addition, many of the attorneys who provide legal support to public health departments do not have the time or resources to develop a thorough and up-to-date understanding of public health law. This paper examines the experience of a number of local health offices in obtaining legal advice and of attorneys who provide legal advice and assistance to local health departments and assesses different models for organizing and financing the provision of legal services to local public health officials.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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