ABA and CDC Collaborate to Fill Critical Gap in Legal Preparedness for Public Health Emergencies
ATLANTA, Aug. 10, 2004 – How can government agencies, for public health protection, restrict the movement of people who might have been exposed to smallpox while also safeguarding their civil liberties? Can someone’s personal health information be released to protect the public? Can healthcare workers be compelled to treat people afflicted with dangerous infections?
The American Bar Association and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have established a new partnership dedicated to exploring these and other related issues about public health emergencies that have risen out of the events of September 11, 2001, the subsequent anthrax attacks, and last year’s global epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
The ABA-CDC partnership signals growing recognition by public health leaders and the legal community that, by combining their knowledge and skills, they can strengthen the nation’s legal preparedness in response to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies. The partnership is also committed to establishing strategic relationships between public health professionals and healthcare lawyers to address the issues surrounding a broad spectrum of chronic diseases, environmental health risks, injuries and disabilities, and other public health concerns.
“With the menace of terrorism and public heath emergencies threatening all Americans, the lawyers of this country stand ready to step up and serve our communities by working to put solutions in place before tragedy strikes,” said ABA President Dennis W. Archer. “We have the know-how and legal tools to help protect the health of all U.S. citizens.”
“Protecting people’s health in a rapidly changing world characterized by globalization, connectivity, and speed demands that we place new emphasis on public health preparedness including the establishments of new partnerships,” said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. “The ABA-CDC partnership will stimulate practical collaborations throughout the United States among public health agencies, the legal community, healthcare organizations, and others who are at the forefront protecting our nation’s health.”
The new partnership already has generated the Community Public Health Legal Preparedness Initiative, through which public health officials and healthcare lawyers organize community workshops on the legal roles and responsibilities of public health agencies and healthcare organizations during public health emergencies. Workshops have been conducted in Atlanta, Houston, and Tulsa, Okla. The ABA’s Health Law Section and the CDC’s Public Health Law Program are the joint leaders of the initiative.
As the “Nation’s Prevention Agency,” CDC is dedicated to better health for all through preparedness, prevention and health promotion. CDC partners with state and territorial health agencies, some 3,000 local public health agencies, and a growing number of healthcare organizations, business, community-based organizations, educational institutions, researchers and other partners throughout the country.
The ABA Health Law Section focuses on legal problems and the interdependent relationships between providers, recipients of healthcare, and the parties financially responsible. It is committed to improving the area of law in healthcare.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.