Environmental Public Health Law

Three Pillars

Most people dread being the subject of interest for doctors, scientists, regulators and lawyers. While we may joke about the arrogance of the medical profession and the aggressiveness of the legal field, both lie at the core of environmental public health (EPH). They are inseparable, sometimes complementary and other times in tension. The role of medicine and science in EPH is clear, but their relationship with law is often opaque. Yet in no other area of public health, from infectious and chronic disease prevention to providing health care in underserved communities, is law so central as an instrument and partner.

In this article we explore the relationship of law and science in the broader context of EPH, beginning with an overview of potential goals and challenges. We then offer three organizing principles that inform and guide the integration of law, science and policy in EPH.

  1. A strong ethos of prevention;
  2. a systems view of the natural, social, and political environments in which we work; and
  3. a profound commitment to transdisciplinary work.