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The Legal System Issues in Law and Public Health

It is the responsibility of the government to protect the public from diseases and associated health risks (Gostin, 2008). Theories of democracy can describe why it is the collective duty of government to provide health amenities to the communities. In this regard, government responsibilities to protect the public from natural and man-made hazards are entrenched in the law. The government is entrusted to establish collective actions from individuals, medical practitioners and other sectors of the society to engage in meaningful public health activities (Gostin, 2008). For example, the government’s role in preventing HIV/AIDs prevalence is critical. In addition, the government s entrusted with educating the public on health issues such as the dangers of smoking tobacco. Health education programs on nutrition, physical exercises, women and children health are the government’s responsibility. In this context, government’s activities are directed to creating awareness as a necessity in promoting public health. From this perspective, the government has a duty to establish laws that guide public health at federal, state and county levels. In addition, financing of health promotion programs is expected from the government. Health promotion policies and ethical considerations are developed by the government and enforced by respective agencies at federal, state, and county levels.

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Government agencies

Federal level

There are several federal agencies concerned with the promotion of public health. The most popular federal agencies are Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are world renowned federal agencies that provide information to the public about health issues through state-based organizations. Another notable agency that operates at the federal level is Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which protects the public by ensuring the safety, security and efficacy of food products, and medical drugs. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is concerned with healthcare services and programs that address special medical conditions such as tissues and organs transplants at the federal level. Finally, the government promotes public health by providing medical insurance through Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

State level

All federal agencies involved in public health have devolved their function at the state level through various departments (Gostin, 2008). In this context, the federal agencies use several public health programs to facilitate healthcare delivery, education and awareness. Nonetheless, state health departments are key players in promoting public health at this level.

Local level

Local health departments assume the responsibility of health promotion at the county level. However, most of the local health departments are controlled and supervised by the state authorities (Gostin, 2008). The local board of health enforces government’s responsibilities in promoting public health by engaging healthcare facilities in collaborative initiatives. Local health departments implement various programs established by agencies at federal and state levels. For example, the local health departments receive a report from CDC and implement the government’s program for the territory depending on the community’s immediate needs. Moreover, local health departments utilize federal and state resources and facilities to conduct research and develop community-based public health programs (Brownson, Chriqui & Stamatakis, 2009).

Current challenges

Currently, the government does not have adequate funds to finance programs established to promote public health. In addition, the government lacks relevant resources required to operate public health programs at federal, state and local levels. Moreover, addressing emerging issues have been hindered by inadequate training in public health institutions and professionals (Brownson, Chriqui & Stamatakis, 2009). The greatest challenge is distributing government’s services and programs among all areas with urgent need of public health. Recent economic recessions have affected the government’s commitment in prioritizing public health issues. In this context, the government is unable to employ enough and adequately train the workforce.

Potential impact

The current challenges have several impacts to public health. To begin with, the need to increase government’s budget allocation for public health is inevitable. In addition, the need to review the Affordable Care Act to address the increased cost of public healthcare is necessary. Other pertinent policies especially on food and drugs need review to ensure that food safety and security supplements government’s efforts in public health. In addition, reinforcing the Pure Food and Drug Act through FDA and respective state and local health department would improve the government’s scope of responsibilities in promoting public health (Wieman, 2010). Ensuring public participation in public health programs is facilitated can be a prudent strategy by the government. From this perspective, partnering with private healthcare facilities and businessmen in decision-making processes can be effective in overcoming public health challenges. In this context, the private sector and well-wishers and charitable organizations can help the government in financing public health programs at federal, state and local levels. Reviewing policies on food and drug procurement can be essential in ensuring that access to medical requirement by the vulnerable populations is not hindered. Therefore, reviewing the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act to allow agencies procure supplies without a limit is necessary in case of shortage and distribution inequalities.


Brownson, R., Chriqui, J. & Stamatakis, K. (2009). Understanding evidence-based public health policy. American Journal of Public Health, 99(9), 1576-83.

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Gostin, L.O. (2008). A theory and definition of public health law. Web.

Wiseman, M. J. (2010). Deriving policy from evidence: experience from the ECRF/AICR report. Critical Review in Food Science & Nutrition, 5022-23.

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