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Public Health Law


Chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke, are the leading causes of death in the United States. They are also among the most costly, in terms of the strain on resources that they place on our system. Although genetics will always play an important role in our health, the risks of many of these illnesses can be substantially lessened with proper diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices.  Other chronic diseases that receive considerable research and public attention are obesity, diabetes, and illnesses that derive therefrom.

There is much controversy surrounding nearly every measure that the government puts into place to try to control the spread of chronic disease. Some members of the health community and the public-at-large see these measures as an attempt to control the overall health and welfare of the community, and as an attempt to reduce the ever-ballooning costs for healthcare that we, as a nation, face. Others deem these measures too paternalistic, arguing that the government should not become a "nanny state" overly concerned with what people do in the privacy of their own home or regarding their own lifestyle choices. The ultimate tension is between the legitimacy of the state concerned with the overall good of the people versus the rights and liberties of the citizens to make their own choices.

Online Resources

Seminal Cases for Obesity


Online Resources


State Surveys

  • NCSL Health Innovations State Law Database
    • NCSL’s Health Program seeks to help state legislators and their staff learn about promising health system reforms and policy innovations that promote a more efficient and effective health care system and improve Americans’ health.
    • This database of recently enacted laws includes information on state health transformation initiatives and related changes in state statutes, as well as a description of topics and categories of legislation for 2015-2020. 
  • Childhood Obesity – 2011 Update of Legislative Policy Options


  • The Obesity Epidemic
    • Video from the CDC explaining the many factors that have contributed to the obesity epidemic, and showcases several community initiatives taking place to prevent and reduce obesity

CDC Chronic Disease Prevention Blog

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Agencies & Other Organizations


  • Journal of Cancer Policy
    • An international, open access journal which publishes research and reviews on global cancer policy. The journal encompasses all aspects of cancer policy and public health.

Articles & Reports


Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. and costs the nation $58 billion on average in any given year. State legislatures throughout the country are actively exploring policy options to  address the more than 26 million Americans currently living with diabetes. States fund prevention, education and self-management programs in various ways, often consisting of federal and state dollars, and through state Medicaid programs.  (NCSL)

Online Resources


State Laws

Texts & Other Books


Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the State of Georgia, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes. Georgia State University College of Law and the authors of the works contained on this website do not assume or accept any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, currentness, or comprehensiveness of the content on this website. The content on this website does not in any manner constitute the issuance of legal advice or counsel. The information on this website is intended to provide resources that may aid the research of the topics presented, and are in no way a comprehensive list of sources one should consult on the topics presented. Please note that case law, statutory law, and administrative law may be modified and/or overturned. Additionally, because the laws vary between jurisdictions, the laws referred to herein may or may not be applicable to the law within the reader’s jurisdiction.