Public Health Authority

Establishing legal authority for state & local public health agencies

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, backlash against public health authority is significantly limiting the ability of public health officials to do their job. Public health leaders have experienced personal threats, and many state legislatures have approved or are currently considering laws that would strip powers from local and state public health agencies. In many cases, these policy changes would diminish preparedness for future emergencies and worsen existing inequities in health and wealth.

Public health agencies are crucial for protecting Americans from threats to health and safety from man-made crises, natural disasters, and outbreaks of disease. Public health authority encompasses the legal rationales and processes that allow public health agencies in a specific jurisdiction to regulate business and public life and carry out both preventive and emergency actions.

Our collection of resources covers what you need to know about public health authority. Get started with the resources highlighted below or learn more about our other areas of work.

VES Ep4 Public Health Authority
Protecting Public Health Authority
In this webinar, panelists unpack recent challenges to public health authority as well as opportunities to support the public health workforce in understanding public health law and its impact on health equity.
PHA Factsheet
Preserving Local Public Health Powers
Learn why local public health powers are important in saving lives and alleviating unjust health disparities as well as steps that communities can take to preserve local public health authority.
Act for Public Health Feature
Act for Public Health
Learn about our collaborative working group that is pushing back against legislative rollbacks of public health authority throughout the United States.
Threats to Public Health Authority
Threats to Public Health Authority
This fact sheet, created in partnership with the Local Solutions Support Center, summarizes ongoing legislative threats to public health authority.
Strengthening Public Health Authority
The Case for Strengthening Public Health Authority
Read an op-ed by Sarah de Guia and Dr. Oxiris Barbot on why states should strengthen, not limit, public health authority.
Preemption and COVID-19
Preemption During the Pandemic
Sarah de Guia, Sabrina Adler, and Kim Haddow discuss how preemption is being used to limit solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic — and what public health advocates and organizations can do about it.

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