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A Legal Primer for the Obesity Prevention Movement

Concepts & challenges of policy

Legal Memo
Health Care

Public health advocates and scientists working on obesity prevention policy face challenges in balancing legal rights, individual freedom, and societal health goals.

In particular, the US Constitution and the 50 state constitutions place limits on the ability of government to act, even in the best interests of the public.

A Legal Primer for the Obesity Prevention Movement was co-authored by Samantha Graff and Seth E. Mermin and was published in the American Journal of Public Health (October 2009, Vol. 99, No. 10). It distills the legal concepts most relevant to formulating policies aimed at preventing obesity: police power; allocation of power among federal, state, and local governments; freedom of speech; property rights; privacy; equal protection; and contract rights.