The State of Public Health Law: Post I, “Who Am I? Why am I Here?”

By Scott Burris

Early in January, Lindsay Wiley and the Network for Public Health Law will convene a group of health law professors and (and a few colleagues from public health law practice) in Washington.  They will be spending a couple of days advancing a conversation about how academic health lawyers can make a bigger contribution to the cause of improving the level and distribution of health in the United States.  The conversation will pick up where a smaller group, organized by Wendy Parmet and Leo Beletsky, left off last Summer. You can read more about that meeting here.

The impetus for these meetings has been a sense that there is a well-organized and well-funded legal effort to blunt key initiatives in public health – and that it seems to be winning.  And that “our side” is not putting up much of a fight. Whether it is the creeping First Amendment or the shrinking Commerce Clause – or just the battle for public hearts and minds – many of us law professors shared the feeling that we needed to rethink our game, not just in the short term, but for the long haul.

The discussion in January will be addressing three questions essential to that rethink: (1) where are we now? (2) where would we like to be in 20 or 30 years? and (3) what will we have to do to get there?  In advance of the meeting, we are thinking about these questions, and I have taken on the task of offering some thoughts on question 1, in the form of a series of blog posts over the next three weeks.  These will be personal essays, describing my own perhaps confused thoughts. I consign them to ablog as much for future deniablilty as present dissemination. I’ll be happy to have comments.

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