Stacie Kershner and Leslie E. Wolf
Law has played a critical role in the great public health achievements of the past century, including vaccination, seat belt use, water fluoridation, and tobacco control. Law continues to be an important tool in this century’s efforts to improve the public’s health, including efforts to prevent chronic illnesses related to obesity. Public health law specifies what must be done or what cannot be done, or law may authorize an array of options regarding what actions are permissible to improve the public’s health. Public health ethics can provide a structure for determining which of the permissible actions authorized by law should be taken. This chapter explores public health law, including its sources and its limits, as well as the relationship between public health law and ethics.