Making the Case for Laws that Improve Health

No one who attended the 2010 national public health law conference hosted by the Public Health Law Association (PHLA) and the American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics (ASLME) could miss the sense of excitement and momentum.

The revival of this annual public health law meeting, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the energetic leadership of the PHLA president and board, ASLME's expert guidance, and a rousing address by Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symbolize the continued commitment of a wide range of important individuals and institutions to the proposition that law is of substantial importance to public health. But there is more than just symbolism to be excited about. CDC's public health law program continues to champion efforts to promote the use and understanding of law as a public health tool.

Academic centers like Georgetown's O'Neill Institute, the Rudd Center for Food Policy at Yale, the Centers for Law and the Public's Health at Johns Hopkins, and the Center for Health Law Studies at St. Louis University have brought new prominence to public health law within legal academia. A whole generation of talented young scholars (too numerous to name without risk of a painful omission) are now working at schools of law, medicine and public health.