This paper considers the responsibilities of the FDA with regard to disseminating information about the benefits and harms of e-cigarettes. Tobacco harm reduction advocates claim that the FDA has been overcautious and has violated ethical obligations by failing to clearly communicate to the public that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than cigarettes. We argue, by contrast, that the FDA’s obligations in this arena are more complex than they may appear at first blush. Though the FDA is accountable for informing the (...) public about the health risks and benefits of products it regulates, it also has other roles that inform when and how it should disseminate information. In addition to being a knowledge purveyor, it is also a knowledge producer, an advisor to the public, and a practical agent shaping the material conditions in which people make health-related choices. In our view, those other roles call for caution in the way the FDA interprets and communicates the available evidence. (shrink)
In June 2012, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his plans for a ban on the sale of sugary beverages in containers larger than 16 ounces. Shortly thereafter, the Center for Consumer Freedom took out a full-page ad in the New York Times featuring Bloomberg photo-shopped into a matronly dress with the tag line “New Yorkers need a Mayor, not a Nanny.” On television, the CATO Institute's Michael Cannon declared, “This is the most ridiculous sort of nanny state-ism; [i]t’s (...) none of the mayor's business how much soda people are drinking.” And in newspapers around the country, editorial pages featured headlines such as “Gulp! Yet Another Intrusion of the Nanny State.” Just like that, the public debate about this measure became focused on government overreach, while the public health problem of obesity faded into the background. (shrink)
This article discusses an interdisciplinary and community-engaged public health law course that was developed as part of The Future of Public Health Law Education faculty fellowship program. Law and public health students worked collaboratively to assist a local health department in preparing for the law-related aspects of Public Health Accreditation Board review.
Even when turning its attention to public health topics such as preventive care and workplace wellness, the Affordable Care Act law embodies a highly individualistic paradigm of health. The provisions of the law implicitly assign the primary responsibility for prevention to individuals, who should be urged to make more responsible and healthier choices about what they consume and how they live. Relatively little in the law reflects the “population perspective” set forth in public health scholarship that focuses on environmental and (...) social determinants of health. This article explores the cultural and economic factors that led Congress to embrace a highly individualist conception of public health, and it suggests how public health advocates and legal scholars might seek to reframe the public discourse surrounding preventive health issues. (shrink)
According to Congressional Budget Office projections, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — assuming it survives the pending legal challenges and is fully implemented — will provide health insurance to 34 million additional Americans by 2021. This will increase the percentage of non-elderly Americans with health insurance from the current rate of 83 percent to 95 percent. Although enactment of the Affordable Care Act constitutes a historic step forward in the nearly century-long effort to ensure universal health insurance coverage, (...) relatively little in the Act focused on the potentially transformative impact of public health efforts that prevent disease. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes are now responsible for more than 75 percent of health care costs, and reducing the incidence of these diseases — which are often entirely preventable — could dramatically improve the nation’s physical and fiscal health. (shrink)
This article discusses how advocacy can be taught to both law and public health students, as well as the role that public health law faculty can play in advocating for public health. Despite the central role that advocacy plans in translating public health research into law, policy advocacy skills are rarely explicitly taught in either law schools or schools of public health, leaving those engaged in public health practice unclear about whether and how to advocate for effective policies. The article (...) explains how courses in public health law and health justice provide ideal opportunities to teach advocacy skills, and it discusses the work of the George Consortium, which seeks to engage public health law faculty in advocacy efforts. (shrink)
In the 20th century, public health was responsible for most of the 30-year increase in average life expectancy in the United States.1 Most of the significant advances in public health required the combined effort of scientists and attorneys. Scientists identified public health threats and the means of controlling them, but attorneys and policymakers helped convert those scientific discoveries into laws that could change the behavior of industries or individuals at a population level. In tobacco control, public health scientists made the (...) groundbreaking discovery that smoking caused lung cancer, but attorneys and policymakers developed and implemented the policies and litigation strategies that helped reduce smoking rates by more than half over the past 50 years. (shrink)