The practice of public health is based on the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens and residents from any potential harm. The state has a moral decree to fulfill its accountability to maintain the health and safety of its residents. Public health deals with the masses at large, rather than taking on an individualistic approach.
A state’s public health efforts involves taking steps and measures to provide the necessary services and interventions needed to maintain the health of the public. Not only does the realm of public health involve dealing with illness and disease that is occurring in a particular group of people, but also to take measures to prevent illness and disease from happening in the first place.
Public health law is a governing body that deals with the legal issues that are raised with the concern of the health and safety of a community. It is the realm of public health law that regulates the legislation and litigation sectors of public health where attempts are made to maintain and improve the health and welfare of a large population, such as residents of a particular city, state or country.
Protecting the Health and Safety of the Public
Public health law helps a governing body operate within moral framework, which generally overrides the benefits of a specific individual with the greater good of the public at large. What may be good for one particular person may not necessarily be what’s best for the surrounding community. It is the greater health benefits for the greatest number of citizens that is the most important aspect of public health law, rather than focusing on an individual.
For example, public health law attempts to demand specific behaviors from its citizens to protect a society as a whole, such as preventing smoking in public areas. Another example involves the requirement that all children be immunized according to the state’s immunization schedule in order to protect all children of the community. It is important to note that public health law varies from one jurisdiction to another. What may be legally required to protect the public in one state may be slightly different than what is required in another.
One of the major areas serviced by public health law is medical legislation aimed at protecting a patient’s rights. There may be times where certain actions may be deemed necessary to take on an infected patient in order to protect the public at large from being vulnerable to illness or disease. This may include actions of quarantine and other actions.
However, there is a fine line between protecting the public at large, and maintaining the integrity of an individual’s rights. For example, although certain actions may be necessary to protect the public health, there exists the obligation of the state to protect the individual as well, and to ensure that no measures are taken that can be considered criminal battery or a breach of civil or human rights.
All fundamental public health tools and administrative measures are governed by public health legislation that justifies interfering with an individual’s rights to protect public health, primarily when there is a threat posed to public health at large.
Medical professionals who deal with and treat patients are also bound by public health law to provide adequate medical service and treatment to their patients. Legal structures put in place to protect the citizens of a community are essential to ensure that medical professionals are performing their jobs to the highest degree. Public health law regulations help to ensure a smoother and more efficient running health care system that benefits the public as a whole.
The government is also responsible for protecting its citizens. Public health law also extends to these components of society to help ensure that certain government bodies are performing their duties properly to maintain public health and safety. Public health law also assists governments in guiding them on maintaining the integrity of a healthy and safe public environment.
Public Health Law as an Expression of Cultural Values
Protecting the health and well-being of the public is a specific role that public health law dictates, but it also plays a role in expressing a culture’s beliefs of what public safety is all about. For example, although in most states it is unlawful to drive without a seatbelt, one of the goals of this law is to display what is an acceptable form of behavior in a particular community. Wearing seatbelts while being transported in a vehicle should not only be done because it is required by law, but also because it is an acceptable behavior that protects and respects the safety of the citizens of a particular state, or other community. Social and cultural norms can be influenced and altered by the implementation of specific laws over time.
While the rights and treatment of an individual are of great importance, there sometimes arises the need to override these individual rights when it comes to protecting the public as a whole. Public health law exists to ensure that the public’s health and safety is held in the highest regard. Public health law also demonstrates the standards which the state expects of its residents when it comes to specific health behaviors. Public health provides the legal framework within which these standards exist.
When a sign is placed on the property of a company or property where the public has access and accommodations that have been designed under the Americans with Disabilities Act are in play, it's important to make sure that the ADA signage that is utilized is such that it is correct under the guidelines of the federal government. Individuals are often surprised to find out that the criteria for everything including the specific fonts that must be used are fairly regulated. While a specific font isn't required, a particular style of font is mandatory for such signs.