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Public Health Law And Combating Obesity

Background :Lawrence Gostin suggests that chronic health problems arising from obesity represent perhaps the most controversial modern problem facing public health (Public Health Law, p. 492). As such, obesity serves as an excellent case study with which to examine the complexities facing today's public health professionals and the role that public health law might play. â??The challenge for the field is how far it can legitimately go in influencing or controlling individual behaviors that pose little risk to others. If public health officials are proactive they risk losing political support, but if they remain passive they ignore the most common causes of illness, disability, and premature death in the population(p. 492).
Some agencies have actively pursued regulation, as did New York City when it sought to ban trans fats and require restaurants to post calorie information. There are other legal approaches, however, that are being used effectively to promote healthier populations.
Recall the various legal tools for public health, as well as the values and rights that are crucial to consider in this field. With these in mind, consider the issue of obesity. How can public health ethically and legally address this formidable problem?

(1.) How might the tools of public health law be used effectively to address the public health problem of obesity at each of these levels: local, state, national, and international?
(2.) What might be the economic or social ramifications of these legal interventions? Justify why these approaches are legally and ethically sound.


(1.) Public Health Grand Rounds. (2007). Cutting-Edge Legal Preparedness for Chronic Disease Prevention. Retrieved September 5, 2008, from http://www.publichealthgrandrounds.unc.edu/legal/webcast.htm

Public Health Grand Rounds video program .The program focuses recent efforts by New York City officials to use the law to address chronic diseases. The case studies include the following: 1) phasing out artificial trans fats in restaurants, 2) efforts to require that restaurants post calorie information on their menus and menu boards, 3) requiring that laboratories report the results of blood-sugar level tests to the health department, and 4) the 2002 law to prohibit smoking in virtually all work places.

(2)Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint 'Concluding Reflections on the Field�chap13 pg492 by Lawrence Gostin
N.B ;Can be found free at (Public health law: power, duty, restraint - Google Books Result)

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The tools of public health law may be used effectively to address the public health problem of obesity at the local, state, national, and international level, based on the following methodology. One of the most important tools that is contained within the ramifications of public health law, and can be used to effectively address the public health problem, is effective health law legislation. Legislation can be effectively enacted, in order to curtail the effects of obesity within the population at large, and this legislation can be used to facilitate a new paradigm in which organizations and individuals are legally bound to refrain from acts that perpetuate the ...