Public Health Ethics and Law

Year 2 Semester 1 

Credits 20

Of the greatest public health achievements of the twentieth century, all had some basis in legislation and regulation: vaccinations; safer workplaces; safer and healthier foods; motor vehicle safety; control of infectious diseases; the decline in deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke; family planning; tobacco control; healthier mothers and babies; and fluoridation of drinking water. Public health law will continue to play an important part in the health of the population (for example in the fields of air quality and climate change). It is therefore critical for you to understand the basic legal tools that can be utilised to improve health, how law can be used to improve population health and understand the legal processes involved in influencing the relationships between individuals, the public and the state.

The duty to protect and improve public health, must also be weighed against an individual’s rights, for example to liberty, privacy and freedom of association. An understanding of ethical frameworks is required to help public health professionals balance these competing values, and develop ethically defensible decisions making.

This module will provide a grounding in ethics and law in the context of public health. The first half of the module introduces key concepts and theories. The second half focuses on specific public health case studies, allowing the application of knowledge and skills.