Characteristics of Public Health Law as Described


Public health laws can intervene at the various individual, agency, and environmental levels with a specific role at each level. This aspect of the legal prescriptions in the healthcare industry provides a basis for understanding the characteristics of the laws. Researchers like Gostin (2008) define public health law as the study of the state’s legal powers and duties to guarantee healthy conditions for the people and the limitations of such power to ensure the protection or promotion of community health. This definition underlines the important characteristics of public health laws.

Medical Policy

Hence, one of the qualities of public health laws in relation to policy is the duty and power of the government in guiding medical policy. Gostin (2008) notes that there is a need to distinguish what is public to ensure a systematic understanding of public health legislation. A public entity is one that acts on behalf of the people and attains its legitimate authority through a political process. Accordingly, a democratic election government engages in public or state action to safeguard and protect the health interests of the population (Gostin, 2008).

Despite the involvement of private entities in public health work, the government has the primary duty to advance population health since it acts on behalf of the people and defends the common welfare. In the ratification of the United States (US) Constitution, the preamble outright highlights the role of republican ideals of the state on common life and mutual security.

Population-Oriented Perspective

Furthermore, public health laws are characterized by the population-oriented perspective, as revealed in the state’s harbor of the power and duty to guarantee public well-being. Unlike medicine, whose orientation is on the individual’s wellness, public health is more population-focused, although it still is individual-oriented (Gostin, 2008). Nevertheless, it organizes primarily to offer a collective benefit to the physical and mental health of individuals belonging to a particular community of the general population. The classic definitions of the concept of public health often emphasize the population-based perspective.

For example, one description of the notion underscores the responsibility of state power in ensuring healthy and sanitary conditions of groups of people or the community as a collective, and the absence of widespread illnesses or causes of death (Gostin, 2008). This definition distinguishes the public health policy goal of improving population well-being from the medical discipline objective of identifying and ameliorating patient ill health.

Occurrence of Disease

Additionally, public health laws are usually oriented toward the prevention of the occurrence of disease, with a special focus on the external agents responsible for influencing the frequency and fatality of sicknesses.   Gostin (2008) observes medical professionals, who represent the guardians of public health, are never focused on preventing illness as it is not part of their clinical education. Accordingly, the design of public health laws seeks to enhance the liberal scientific basis of medical institutions by encouraging multidisciplinary cooperation in the collection of statistical observations and discouraging individual-based experiences. This emphasizes the prevention of disease and injury rather than amelioration or treatment.

Gostin (2008) illustrates his points by highlighting the Golden Square cholera outbreak in 1854, whose cause was traced to a polluted water source. Consequently, public health policies have been transforming to pursue interventions fashion to avert disease or injury occurrence. Some of the strategies for prevention include vaccination that targets infectious illnesses, the enforcement of safety standards to avoid injuries, and public health education to limit risky behaviors (Gostin, 2008). Overall, public health and medicine are intertwin because the individual benefits from cures that reduce contagiousness and also help reduce population disease exposure.