Online Program

Privatization of Public Health

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 : 11:00 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.

Lance Gable, JD, MPH, Wayne State University Law School, Detroit, MI
Public health is a quintessential government function. Governments have the responsibility to consider the interests of the entire community and make efforts to protect these interests. State and local governments use their police powers to effectuate good public health outcomes. Private entities, by contrast, typically lack the incentives or the power to achieve population health goals. Yet, private entities are increasingly involved in public health practice.

This presentation explores the implications of increased privatization on the theory and practice of public health. Central to this discussion is the example of the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion, which underwent a radical experiment of contracting out most of its operations to a non-profit institute in 2012. The Detroit privatization experiment raises challenging questions about the scope of public health powers and the extent to which legal authority for public health can be delegated outside governmental entities. Privatization of public services is not inherently problematic, but privatization raises concerns about continuity of services that do not generate revenue and about serving the mission of public health. Furthermore, privatization of population health services may undermine some of the structural and legal protections afforded by public entities, and may render public health priorities more susceptible to market forces and political dynamics.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe some of the important structural features of the public health system as constructed by law and policy. Discuss theories of how privatization affects public health practices and outcomes. Explain the legal challenges created by privatization of public health services.

Keyword(s): Law, Privatization

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an expert in public health law with over a decade of experience in the field.
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.