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Legal Issues in the Design and Implementation of Public Health Measures

By: Kyra Berasi

Strong and evidence-based measures, such as laws and regulations, play a critical role in addressing pressing public health issues. Governments and civil society around the world have developed innovative measures to protect the public health and save lives across many issues, such as combatting non-communicable diseases (NCDs), improving epidemic preparedness and response, and injury prevention.

In the early stages of planning to address a public health problem, lawyers are often not involved in preliminary decisions like how research is conducted and evidence is gathered. Yet those leading the work – such as civil society, public health experts, academics, and government officials – might not have the technical capacity to apply a legal lens or know when legal considerations should be taken into account. As a result, legal implications are frequently overlooked. Yet these early decisions often play a critical role in how effectively measures are eventually implemented and whether they can withstand legal scrutiny.

The Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) supports efforts to develop and pass public health measures, using an approach refined over 25 years of work in tobacco control and then successfully applied to a range of other public health topics. A key element of our work is having a multidisciplinary technical team closely involved from the outset of developing policy-advocacy campaigns. As a lawyer working across our Cardiovascular Health, Food Policy, and Prevent Epidemics programs, I see the importance of legal considerations being integrated into projects from day one.

In a new resource, Legal Issues in the Design and Implementation of Public Health Measures, GHAI outlines seven steps for incorporating legal considerations into the development of public health measures. These seven interdependent steps are designed to help advocates and governments account for legal issues and determine when they may need further legal guidance. Awareness of important legal principles can help the public health community craft stronger, more effective measures. Click here to view this Legal Issues resource.