Law and Public Health: Beyond Emergency Preparedness

40 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2006 Last revised: 14 Jul 2009

See all articles by Wendy K. Mariner

Wendy K. Mariner

Boston University School of Public Health; Boston University - School of Law


This Article examines three questions: What is public health? What is public health law? What roles can lawyers play in public health? It first describes the breadth of public health, highlighting six trends shaping its future: social determinants of health; synergy between medicine and public health; shifts in focus from external (e.g., environmental and social) to internal (behavioral) risks to health; federalization of public health law; globalization of health risks and responses; and bioterrorism. Because the domains of law that apply to public health are equally broad, the Article next offers a conceptual framework for identifying the types of laws most suitable to different public health problems. Finally, the role of lawyers in the applied field of public health law is examined, first to encourage attention to law's effect on health, even laws having little apparent relationship to health; and second, to recognize that laws intended to achieve specific health outcomes may affect broader legal principles. Lawyers have a unique role to play in ensuring that the legal principles used to promote health also preserve justice.

Suggested Citation

Mariner, Wendy K., Law and Public Health: Beyond Emergency Preparedness. Journal of Health Law, Vol. 38, No. 2, Spring 2005, Available at SSRN:

Wendy K. Mariner (Contact Author)

Boston University School of Public Health ( email )

715 Albany Street
Boston, MA 02118
United States
617-358-3160 (Phone)
617-414-1464 (Fax)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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