Public Health Law

Course Description:

This course is an introduction to public health law in the United States. Although it is designed for professionals who work in public health agencies, the first modules introduce the basic fundamentals of law and the legal system in the US which are the same no matter what the core subject area of law is to be studied. Module One introduces the sources of law, including the US and state constitutions, federal and state legislation, and federal and state judicial opinions, and the interplay among them. There is discussion of the sections of the US Constitution and amendments often cited as most applicable to the public health law arena. Module Two introduces the roles and powers of federal and state administrative agencies, including the process for promulgation of administrative rules and regulations, enforcement, and administrative hearings. Module Three is more specific to public health and discusses the difficulties in determining which laws can be considered as "public health" laws and regulations, as well as the provisions in federal and state laws that apply to the health and welfare of the public in general rather than to laws governing the health of individuals and delivery of services to individual patients. Also included is discussion of the powers of the federal and state governments in arena of public health. Balancing the rights of the individual against the rights of the population is included. Module Four discusses governmental powers in the case of emergency; the specific context of bioterrorism is used as the exemplary base for discussion. Finally, Module Five discusses the basics of the issue of public health information and privacy. Included are the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the responsibilities of public health agencies and employees in receipt and use of protected health information. Throughout the course, principles such as federalism and preemption and others are included. Examples of model public health legislation are also cited.

Target Audience

Academic Faculty/Staff, Federal Government Employees, State Government Employees, Local Government Employees, Non-Government Employees and Students

Learning Objectives

  • Define principles of jurisdiction governing federal and state laws, decisions and regulations, including administrative agencies and the administrative process
  • Distinguish the difference between “health law” and “public health law,” including the sources and scope of legal powers and responsibilities of the states to protect both the general population and the individual
  • Identify the powers and responsibilities of public health agencies and to distinguish those from powers and responsibilities of other government agencies, the police, and the judicial system
  • Identify the limits and restrictions on the government’s powers to act and the sources of those limitations
  • Identify the sources, scope, and limits of emergency powers granted to protect the public’s health familiarize the student with the Model State Emergency Powers Act
  • Distinguish the ethical issues and competing interests between protection of the population and protections of individuals and individual rights in situations such as the following:
    • Compelling medical treatment or mandatory screening
    • Imposing quarantine or other restrictions of movement of the individual in instances such as SARS
    • Release of patient data and the privacy requirements of HIPAA, including legal responsibilities of the public health officials who receive patient health information (PHI)
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 5.00 Participation/CE
    Tulane Professional and Continuing Education (PaCE) awards 5.00 hour(s) of credit for completing Public Health Law
Course opens: 
Course expires: 


Judith Overall

Judith Overall, M.Ed, MHSA, JD

Professor Overall is the Director of the International Center for Health and Social Systems for the elderly housed in HSM and is the Director of HSM International Programs. She is a member of the Louisiana Executive Board on Aging (LEBA) and is the advisor to the Committee for Promotion of Studies on Aging in the State of the Yucatan, Mexico. She is the former chair of the Department of Health Systems Management, is a licensed attorney and licensed nursing facility administrator.

Professor Overall frequently lectures internationally, particularly in China, Mexico, and Russia, primarily on the following topics: issues related to the elderly and the impact of aging on health, social, political and economic systems; structure and financing of the US health care system; health reform; health care management; and health law and regulation. She works with the Open Society Institute in evaluating its program to establish new schools of public health in Eastern Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union. She serves as a member of the editorial board of a new journal for patient education to be published by the Medical Academy of Postgraduate Studies (MAPS), St. Petersburg, Russia.


  • BS in Educational Psychology, Mississippi State University
  • M.Ed in Special Education, Mississippi State University
  • MS in Health Care Administration, Graduate School, University of Mississippi
  • JD, School of Law, University of Mississippi

Available Credit

  • 5.00 Participation/CE
    Tulane Professional and Continuing Education (PaCE) awards 5.00 hour(s) of credit for completing Public Health Law


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Required Hardware/software

System Settings 
This course is designed to work most effectively if your computer and internet connection meet certain minimal requirements. This course can be accessed using a Windows 10 PC or a Mac with High Sierra1, Mojave, or Catalina. Pop-up blockers should be disabled when viewing the course. Internet Explorer 11 (for Windows 10), or the current version of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari (for Windows 10 and or Mac) is required. Many of our courses require Java and JavaScript enabled. 

Links to External Websites   
Links to websites outside this course will open in a new window or tab. Some browsers may minimize the course window. If this occurs, maximize the course window to return to the course. 

Adobe Acrobat Reader (for desktops and laptops)  
Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to access some documents in this course. If you need to download a free copy of Acrobat Reader, click here.  

Internet Connection Speed 
A minimum download speed of 1.5 Mbps is recommended for an optimal experience, which is commonly the speed associated with a basic DSL or a cellular/satellite connection. A faster connection, such as cable or fiber service, with further enhance your online experience. A Wi-Fi connection is generally acceptable, but it is dependent upon one of the two services mentioned above. You can check your internet connection speed at