149739 State courts and public health: Building partnerships to enhance preparedness in Pennsylvania

Wednesday, November 7, 2007: 2:30 PM

Patricia Sweeney, JD, MPH, RN , Department of Health Policy and Management, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA
Historically, courts have played a vital role in protecting the public's health, by authorizing inspections, enjoining nuisances, and enforcing health regulations. But in this era of bioterrorism, emerging infectious diseases, and the potential for unprecedented pandemic disease, it is very likely that the nation's courts will be called upon to play an even more critical role in protecting public health in the future. Recognizing this, the University of Pittsburgh Center for Public Health Preparedness (UPCPHP), in collaboration with the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts, has developed a Public Health Law Bench Book to facilitate the Pennsylvania judiciary's understanding of public health legal authority. The format of the bench book is unique in that it provides answers to the legal and procedural issues most likely to arise in a public health emergency: involuntary examination and treatment, isolation and quarantine authority, searches and seizure of property, evacuations, and temporary closure of public/private property. The bench book provides Pennsylvania judges with ready access to the information they will need to effectively address public health issues that may come to their courtroom.

This session will provide information about how this partnership was initiated, how the bench book was developed, the judiciary's response to the tool, and the educational programming that has been undertaken to ensure appropriate use of the book. In addition, the session will highlight how this effort has led to continued collaboration between these partners in the form of a Pennsylvania Court Continuation of Operations Plan.

Learning Objectives:
Session participants will be able to: 1. Recognize the critical role that courts and the judiciary play in disease prevention and control. 2. Articulate how legal preparedness for public health emergencies improves public health preparedness. 3. Discuss the Pennsylvania Public Health Law Bench Book development process. 4. Identify methods of collaboration to facilitate legal preparedness in courts in other jurisdictions. 5. Evaluate lessons learned and identify best practices for replication.

Keywords: Public Health, Public Health Legislation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.