Framing Child Protection as a Public Health Law Issue

  • Donald C. BrossEmail author
  • Ben Mathews
Part of the Child Maltreatment book series (MALT, volume 9)


Public health law developed over centuries in a fashion distinct from historic child protection law. Public health law, with its focus on the health and safety of whole populations and lesser attention to individual rights and liberties, has been a core element in the development and practice of modern public health. Public health law reflects public health itself through its focus on science and evidence-based policies, support for the utilization of both population-based intervention and prevention, but also its endorsement of limited use of targeted campaigns and clinical interventions directed at specifically identified individuals that have taken place from the local to a global scale. Individual rights have become more prominent in many countries over the past few centuries, for example during the advent of HIV. Nevertheless, more than many other governmental activities, public health policy and practice are science-based and the legitimacy and power of public health laws rest primarily on their support by science. Along with a foundation of science, public health practitioners have inherited and practiced the medical ethos of reviewing their regulations and activities to determine effects, identify possible errors, and embed accountability for all of their efforts through continuing self-examination, and utilization of recent biological, chemical, environmental and behavioral research. Finally, law itself is not only a means of articulating public health powers and limitations, but the effects of laws can be an important variable to research and consider when efforts are made to advance the public’s health. A related question is the extent to which the training of lawyers enhances or detracts from their ability to advance public health by understanding and endorsing public health science versus attacking its science by using legal tactics.


Accountability Child welfare Injury Public health law Public health science Safety Scientific inquiry Social justice 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Colorado School of MedicineAuroraUSA
  2. 2.Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and NeglectDenverUSA
  3. 3.School of LawQueensland University of Technology (QUT)BrisbaneAustralia

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