246874 Code is Law is Public Health: A Networking Approach to Digital Marketing

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 4:30 PM

Robert J. L. Moore, JD , Cetrulo and Capone, LLP, Boston, MA
Nicholas McDonald, JD , Cetrulo & Capone LLP, Boston, MA
Winslow described public health as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals.” That is, public health entails setting the parameters for human behavior, usually through laws, such that, in the aggregate, people make healthful choices.

Now, as Lessig observed, “code is law.” In other words, the parameters that decide how most people will behave are set increasingly by protocols developed by consortia of software developers. These protocols have upended traditional media. Television, radio, and print media are being reinvented or replaced by digital technologies and systems such as the Internet and handheld devices.

This shift has serious implications for childhood obesity and global public health. Public health practitioners understand, for example, that the marketing of unhealthy foods is a major factor in the global childhood obesity epidemic, but their current methodology for addressing said marketing does not work in the digital age. While marketers have adapted to the changing media environment, public health practitioners and public health law have not. Learning to use and adopt the legal tools of the digital environment for public health goals is the only way to move forward and formulate a truly effective public health strategy to confront the marketing of unhealthy foods.

This presentation will examine code as a source of law in the context of public health, particularly the example of digital marketing, and make recommendations for new approaches.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health administration or related administration
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify new sources of law that affect public health. 2. Delineate modes of digital marketing and risks to public health. 3. Recommend new approaches for ensuring that laws promote healthful outcomes. 4. Assess feasibility of new legal approaches.

Keywords: Law, Technology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been a practicing attorney for 4 years and have worked at length on public health issues in that time, both as a staff attorney at a public health think tank and independently. I have delivered 3 presentations at APHA Annual Meetings in the past. I am also a computer engineer.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

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.